Thursday, April 24, 2008

10 Guidelines - Ahimsa (non-violence)

Each week I sit down in front of my computer to compose the current blog entry. Some weeks the words fly across the screen and I’m bipping here and there for pictures and quotes. Other weeks it takes longer to establish my thoughts and to pick a topic out of the infinite variety available. This is one of those weeks where my focus is scattered, so I decided to review my previous posts and bring forward one of those “we’ll discuss this later” topics.

Back in December I wrote about the 8 Limbs of Yoga and mentioned the Yamas and Niyamas, 10 guidelines encompassing rightful living. These aren’t resolutions to be made at the turning of the new year, then forgotten after about March. These aren’t commandments to be followed in the strict orthodox sense. These are concepts that the yoga student practices to develop self awareness while on the yogic path. These are better thought of as an intent to practice the self-restraints and observances over a long-term duration of years and years.

As a review, the 10 guidelines for rightful living are:
Yamas (or self restraints)
Ahimsa - non-violence
Satya - truth
Asteya - non-stealing
Brahmacharya - chastity or walking with the divine
Aparigraha - non-attachment

Niyamas (or observances)
Saucha - cleanliness
Santosa - contentment
Tapas - self discipline
Svadhyaya - self study
Isvara pranidhanani - surrender to the divine

They seem overwhelming at first, don’t they? It’s kinda like “Holey Batman! I’m supposed to practice all of those?” Yup! Let’s take a look at the first, and what I consider to be the most powerful, guideline:

Ahimsa or Non-Violence : Don’t bring or cause harm others...don’t harm yourself.

Seems simple on the surface. We know not to strike out in anger, not to kill, not to shove, and not to yell. But what about the not so obvious things - Gossip. Over or under exercising. Over indulging in food or drink. Nasty comments to or about friends, family, coworkers. Or no comment at all when thanks or compliments should be given. I was recently reminded that it takes 20 positive comments to over come one negative comment - when was the last time you thanked someone? How do you treat your self during the day? Do you skip meals? Push when you know you need to rest? Ahimsa is not only non-violence towards others in words acts and deeds, but it’s non-violence toward yourself as well.

This month let’s take a look at our actions towards ourselves and others and observe where a little more ahimsa just might make our lives a little bit better. Kinda like Earth Day...every day.

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