I spoke of Ahiṃsā, non-harming last week, and here I am again not able to let this go. I don't think that it is that unusual since once again we have horrible news of the violent deaths of so many children and adults. It would be hard not to talk about this once again. Let us talk about it a little bit differently, let us talk about it as action! What can we/you do in action to stop this, to begin putting an end to these atrocities. Do you think that there is nothing you can do? Perhaps become inspired about gun reformation and how we as a people can make a change. Sure, do that, and that is good, but is there more that we can do, collectively? To stop this insanity and what is becoming a common place occurrence?!
I used to believe that I was a simple woman and could not make a difference on a world wide level. I especially did not want to jump on the bandwagon and think that somehow I could equate my suffering to any of those that lost their children in this most horrific act.
There is a lot of PC around this and at times it makes me not speak out as I wish to. But it’s getting harder and harder to be silent any longer. I do not want to say that we are too small to make a difference. I do not want to think that we and I can not make some changes within and without ourselves. I have taken this time to remind myself of my internal violent behavior and how those behaviors have and do make a difference in this world, and that on some level I too have contributed to the horrific behavior of that young man this past week.
To remind you, Ahiṃsā, non-harming, is a practice that can lead us to yoga and is categorized as a ‘restraint’ or yama – a practice of holding back or restraining ourselves from causing harm. The idea of restraint implies that harming may already have been there – unconsciously – in our thoughts, words, and actions. The first step is looking with clear eyes at the way our actions impact others. It means reflecting on ourselves deeply and with clarity, honesty, and humility. We can start by trying to reduce the harm we are doing in the most outward ways in our lives, the harm created by action. This is a practice and implies returning again and again to the same action (or restraint) with intention and consistency, it does not imply perfection but the willingness to apply effort and persist, until we are able to sustain the new, desirable habit.
As we practice, we start to move more inwardly, going beyond action to our words, thoughts, and even where the deepest root of the motivation to cause harm comes from, our underlying beliefs and attitudes. Where does the motivation to harm come from? When we begin a new habit there can be a certain amount of discomfort. We have to be willing to be uncomfortable, go against the grain of our habits, our immediate desires, and culturally conditioned actions if we want to make a better world possible. The willingness to be a little uncomfortable is the first step. Mind you, this is not an easy step and one that is hardly realized, but these are desperate times.
After some time, giving up a harmful action ceases to feel like restraint but begins to feel more like an affirmation of life and an alignment with our innermost values. It no longer feels uncomfortable, but becomes an act of joy, love, and upliftment of all beings. At a point, ahimsā transforms from a turning inward, a ‘restraint’ into its opposite; an offering, an expansion of Self. As the practice grows and expands, ahimsā becomes much more than a practice of restraining harm, but as a practice of creating good. Ahimsā not just as a ‘no’ but as a resounding inner ‘yes’ to nurturing the web of life. As the desire to say no to unecessary harm transforms into a yes to increasing the good we may find that the sense of who/what I am expands.
We do not exist in isolation, we are interdependent on all that is. Think deeply on that, contemplate the sum total of beings that make your existence possible. In the yogic sense, liberation or freedom cannot exist for the individual as isolated from existence. It's all for all, and the yogi goes all in!
In yoga we are trying to understand the self as expansive, as beyond what we usually consider the self – our body and our mind. Expand sense of “me” to include not only other people, but the plants which are responsible for the atmosphere that gives me breath, the butterflies, bees, moths, beetles, and bats that pollinate the plants. The rivers and the oceans which evaporate and creating an ocean in the sky that turns into rain, the sun that creates evaporation and provides energy to so many. If we zoom out far enough, and contemplate the web of life and the interconnections between all molecules, minerals, elements, beings… There is nothing that is not me. The entire concept of self-care radically shifts to Self-care, that is care for the air, water, soil, and ecosystem that supports all of life.
It begins with us, with you. What will you do to stop the violent thoughts and actions within you? Will you stop eating animals that have been brutally killed? Will you stop thinking negative thoughts of people and loved ones around you, including yourself? Will you make the difficult decision to change the violent actions of your complacent lives?
I do not mean to insult or bring judgement to anyone. I actually am speaking to myself as well. I speak to myself of my own violent actions and thoughts, and the ones that I still cling to. But after these events that continue to present themselves, I am becoming more and more unable to look the other way. I can no longer think that even my smaller and seemingly insignificant thoughts do not contribute to the fear, anger, ignorance and violence in the world.
We have a problem, and the problem does not lie outside of ourselves, it lies within.
Please be kinder to yourselves and loved ones in action and thought, please participate, stand up for what is right and become intolerant to what is wrong (in- non-violence).
This is a hard question to ask and for many of us to hear, but when you hear of one person causing so much violence and harm on innocent children and families, do your thoughts go to anger, violence, retaliation? This would be a hard question to answer no to, but we all must try! We can not stop violence with violence, and we have to look to ourselves to stop the madness of this rageful cycle.
We and you can make a difference, it is time, it is past the time that we stop the madness.
It is easy to be unkind and to be cruel. It is courageous to be non-violent, to be kind, to be loving.
Please chose kindness! Today and all days.