Most of us would consider ourselves to be non-violent people, but did you consider that shame, guilt, resentment and even disappointment all have a seed of violence to them? When we can’t forgive ourselves, when we put all the responsibility of the world on our shoulders, we’re inflicting harm to ourselves. When we act and speak out of fear we are causing harm. When we gossip we’re acting out of accordance of ahimsa. If we leave fear and self-sabbatoge unchecked we can wreck havoc on our lives! Outward violence is simply the outward manifestation of inner turmoil and fear. Acting from a place of unconditional love and compassion for ourselves is the way we achieve ahimsa. If we choose to run, hide and make excuses for ourselves we continue to suffer.
Another side to ahimsa is one of protection. When I read this short story I learned a huge lesson in my own life. The story here was shared by Judith Lasater:
“There is a famous story about ahimsa told in the Vedas, the vast collection of ancient philosophical teachings from India. A certain sadhu, or wandering monk, would make a yearly circuit of villages in order to teach. One day as he entered a village he saw a large and menacing snake who was terrorizing the people. The sadhu spoke to the snake and taught him about ahimsa. The following year when the sadhu made his visit to the village, he again saw the snake. How changed he was. This once magnificent creature was skinny and bruised. The sadhu asked the snake what had happened. He replied that he had taken the teaching of ahimsa to heart and had stopped terrorizing the village. But because he was no longer menacing, the children now threw rocks and taunted him, and he was afraid to leave his hiding place to hunt. The sadhu shook his head. “I did advise against violence,” he said to the snake, “but I never told you not to hiss.”
“Protecting ourselves and others does not violate ahimsa. Practicing ahimsa means we take responsibility for our own harmful behavior and attempt to stop the harm caused by others. Being neutral is not the point. Practicing true ahimsa springs from the clear intention to act with clarity and love.” -Judith Lasater
My kindness has been taken advantage of more times than I’d like to admit and I have also received unjust shaming for innocent mistakes. I have spent nights beating myself up, succumbing to self-sabbatoge, but this story changed the direction of my thinking so much. We all make mistakes, we misread people and situations, we are human beings. We do things we’re sorry for, but if we are coming from a place of truth and good intentions, without the intent to harm, we can go easier on ourselves. We can also create better boundaries for ourselves when we understand ahimsa, and in doing so, we can protect our hearts and souls. We can create a hiss. Being kind and loving does not mean we are weak and vulnerable. It’s the exact opposite. It means we love ourselves and we will protect ourselves and others in order to honor this place in us.
Our yoga practice offers a great place to meet our truths so we can begin the act of acceptance. Moving through our practice without force and honoring our limitations helps us nurture the body and the mind so we can become gentler and more at ease in all aspects of our lives. It’s about living authentically.