We have just taken our first vacation as a family. And, sometimes it takes vacation for you to realize that you needed to reset, pause, and be gentle with yourself even if your vacation includes a lot of activity. Before arriving on vacation, I was planning my yoga class and thinking about ahimsa or non-violence. When I was feeling the energy of ahimsa, I was feeling it as a gentleness towards ourselves and others.
We are constantly hurting ourselves with our thoughts, and we commit acts of self-hatred more often than acts of self-love. We are more apt to go into thought patterns that are self-defeating than invoking love for ourselves. In my experience, both personal and from hearing other people’s stories this is where we get sick. Our thoughts are matter effecting our physical body. If we continue to attach to thoughts and patterns that are negative, then those thoughts change the energy of our cells, which can lead to sickness. Re-wiring our thought patterns can change our health and provide us with a sense of inner-peace.
I love the teachings of ahimsa, because it teaches us to be gentle, be kind, and love ourselves more. Am I acting with non-violence when I overwork myself to sickness? Am I practicing ahimsa when I’m hard on myself, or when I’m giving into my negative thought patterns about my body, or how I feel about myself? Am I practicing ahimsa when I don’t take time to nourish myself, and forget myself? Absolutely not–I’m actually harming myself.
We can cultivate ahimsa in our lives. First, we need to become aware of where we are not being kind to ourselves. We can make a list of the negative thoughts we have, or journal about the ways that we are not loving ourselves, or being gentle with ourselves. Then, from here we can begin to restructure our lives to cultivate gentleness and ahimsa. For example, my new promises to myself include taking time to eat three meals per day, and taking twenty minutes to recuperate everyday. Also, in practice we can cultivate ahimsa by being gentle. We can do this by practicing in such a way so as to protect our body from injury, taking our time in each asana, and using the right effort.
In being gentle and kind to ourselves, we are not only changing the energy of our cells, but we are sharing that gentle, peaceful nature with the world.