There are five Yama's, and Ahimsa is the first and most paramount yama, and will almost always take precedence over the others. Ahimsa loosely translates as "to not bring harm to self or others, through thoughts or actions". At least this is my interpretation of it.
Lately in the practice of my life I have wandered from this yama. I have taken it for granted. I have let my thoughts wander. I have found myself having non-compassionate thoughts. I have not been practicing ahimsa towards myself or towards others.
When this happens, it typically means that we are letting our ego creep in and overtake our thoughts. You see the ego can wreck havoc on the yama's and the niyama's. Our ego tells us to feel justified in what we are doing. Yet when we look inward and self reflect, we actually end up feeling horrible about our thoughts or actions, and that we did not follow the guidelines of the yama's or niyama's.
I am currently immersed in two very different situations, both occuring in my life at the same time. In regards to my thoughts and feelings towards both, I felt that my thoughts and proposed actions were ethical. That there had been significant reflection and compassion shared towards both. Yet as I journaled this morning over a cup of coffee, there were some deep rooted thoughts surfacing that were horribly unethical.
"Storms rage about me. I calm my heart and send out ribbons of peace ~ peace." ~ C.L.
I immediately noticed my thought pattern change as son as I went deep enough to allow these thoughts to surface. I was like "Whoa!", and began to ponder how I had gotten myself to this point. Perhaps I have felt hurried, afraid, powerless, out of balance, or harsh with myself over the past couple of weeks, which has led to the percievably unkind thoughts in my mind.
Finding my courage to face what I was now aware of was the next step. When we seek to find our courage, we must ask ourself to first identify our fears regarding the action, and then identify which are fears that keep us alive, and which are fears that keep us from living. The first fear is instinctual and is hardwired in our minds for survival. the second fear is a fear of the unknown, and will offer us immense growth once we commit to exploring that unknown. You see courage is not the absence of fear, yet is the ability to be afraid without becoming paralyzed.
As I have only begun to explore my fears, creating balance in my life will help me to dive deeper. This is not easy. By nature we are hungry, noisy people that are bombarded with stimulation and advertisements that promise to grant us our deepest desires. Without balance we may fall victim to these promises filling each breathable space within our day with something. Perhaps this is even just us getting lost in our gadget looking for that next promise? I have found that our minds and souls require time and space to digest and assimilate information. When we spread ourselves too thin, it may look impressive to others, but in the end we are the first to lose as we do not have balance in our lives.
Here is where my current struggles really hit home. Powerlessness. One of the biggest challenges to maintaining balance is feeling powerless. Feeling powerless leads to outward aggression (frustration & anger) or inward withdrawal (depression & victimization). Ahimsa invites us to question this powerlessness. What do we need to feel competent in the handling of this situation? Perhaps we are not as powerless as we initially had thought? Perhaps we only need to offer gratitude, show trust in the moment, and compassionately think of others.
"I excite myself with my incompetencies" ~ Yogiraj Achala
Practicing self love will aid in the pursuit of Ahimsa. You see, our inward thoughts and actions towards ourselves will ultimately be projected outwards to others. If you are critical of yourself, others will feel that high standard projected unto themselves. If you feel laughter and delight in yourself, others will feel those feelings while in your presence. We may have full hearts and the best intentions for others, however if we do not feel that for ourselves, those feelings will not be received in the same way. Remember fear creates harm and violence, love creates expansion, non-violence, and the true safety that we all seek.
I had to learn the difference between my ideas surrounding help and support. Help is the thought that we are more skilled at navigating life's challenges and decisions than the other person is. Support is where we meet the other person on a level playing field as equals, and a mutual respect is held for the other person. Take a ship for example. Lets say the ship hits rough waters. Help is when the assistant captain attempts to take over the helm as he has had more "experience" with rough waters. Support is the assistant captain offering his suggestions based upon past experiences, knowing the captain has the ability to make the correct decision. When we try and fix a situation, we realize that us "fixing" is a way of us worrying or not trusting everything will work out. Worry tends to be masked as caring, and worry is rooted as a form of violence.
As we practice the inner workings of ahimsa, we begin to develop a sense of self compassion, which will grow to a compassion for others. Compassion will move us across the boundaries of established normalities, past boundaries of safety, ultimately moving towards actions which will ease suffering. Suffering for ourselves, as well as others with no expectations. We learn compassion when we stop trying to change ourselves and others, and instead soften the boundaries that keep us from the unknown.
Remember that life is a practice, we are all struggling to find our way, decide on our paths. When we practice non-violence towards ourselves and others, it eases the path for everyone. We begin to learn to step lightly, do no harm, and to honour the relationship that we have with the earth, with each other, and with ourselves.
11:35 - ahimsapratisthayam tatsannidhau vairatyagah
When non-violence in speech, thought and action is established, one's aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one's presence. ~ B.K.S. Iyengar - Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
A strong tree begins with strong roots.