Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ahimsa - non-violence

According to Wikipedia, Ahimsa means do not harm.

Directly from the website -

"Ahimsa means kindness and non-violence towards all living things including non-human animals; it respects living beings as a unity, the belief that all living things are connected. Indian leader Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi strongly believed in this principle.[3]Avoidance of verbal and physical violence is also a part of this principle, although ahimsa recognizes self-defense when necessary, as a sign of a strong spirit. It is closely connected with the notion that all kinds of violence entail negative karmic consequences."

I think when one looks at that from a literal standpoint, one may think, we're not supposed to hit anyone, get in a fight, murder, etc. And really, why would that be something I need to practice? Honestly, I have never gotten in a fight, and obviously, never murdered anyone, so this shouldn't be hard, right? 

The thing that we've been discussing in Yoga Teacher Training is how this is interpreted in our daily lives, because most of us do not have to decrease how many people we murder. What kind of guidelines can I develop for my daily life that are guided by the idea of Ahimsa. 

Vegetarianism is a controversial topic as it relates to Ahimsa. As someone who has struggled with eating issues, is it a good idea for me to cut out an entire food group, probably not. Some people don't carry vegetarianism well because they lose too much weight or have other health issues related to not getting enough protein or whatever it is that they need. 

So how can I bring this idea of "non-violence" into my meat choices? The way that I use it is through making a conscious effort to know where my meat comes from. Is the farm local? Do they treat animals inhumanely? Is it sustainable long term? Is the transportation of the meat harmful to the environment? Whole Foods does an excellent job of 1) providing meat from farms that follow certain standards in meat production and 2) use a scale to rate how well the farms meet those standards. The pork I am cooking today was a 4 on a scale of 1-5, so I felt pretty good about the fact that it fits into those Ahimsa guidelines. The same with fish. Is the fish wildcaught? If not, is the farm sustainable because some farms are actually okay depending on how they are treated/handled. This is a great way that I can make a daily choice to be CONSCIOUS of my intention without being straight up vegetarian. 

That's a big one, but to make it even simpler. What about when I'm at the post office, and the lady behind the counter is rude. Am I rude back? Or can I just think, she must be having a bad day, so I'm going to ignore it and give her the benefit of the doubt. If someone cuts me off while driving, am I going to give them the finger? Or maybe I'll remember that I've probably done that before and let it go? By having a mindset of kindness and tolerance for people even when it's not justified in my mind, that's practicing non violence towards others. 

The last big one and I have a REALLY hard time with this - gossip. I love a good story. But by attacking someone's character, especially behind their back, I am actually creating a negative environment for myself. Really, even thinking poorly about someone can automatically take me out of a positive mindset, but to then take it a step further, and discuss that out loud, I am violating this concept. 

What I have to remember is that I will not do this perfectly. No one will, that is part of the process. But if my intention is that of non-violence on a daily basis, what kinds of gifts will God give me! Not because I'm being good, but because I am staying God Centered and I can be aware when He needs me to serve. 

What do you think about ahimsa? 

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