The Yamas and Niyamas provide beautiful and powerful principles as to how we should strive to live and interact in this world, with all its inhabitants. When I was first introduced to the idea of Ahimsa, I felt a deep sadness because I realised that I have not been practicing compassion and love at all times. I am consciously a kind person, I am mindful of the thoughts and words I speak to myself and to others, but there are many times when I have allowed violence and hostility to take over.
Take, for example, my two small children. Is there any better way to practice Ahimsa than when raising children, or any harder way to have your commitment to it tested? Every. Single. Day you confront constant demands, whining and crying, tantrums, mess, spills, fighting, defiance (NO! NOOOOOO! I don’t WANT to brush my teeeeeeeeeeth!)… all of which come from innocence, curiosity and their search for independence. But lets face it – living with a 2 year old and a 4 four year old presents you with many opportunities to step back, breathe and act with love instead of violence.
However in today’s society, with its proliferation of parenting guides and mummy bloggers and contradictory theories on how to discipline – being a parent can be very confusing! I have been known to claim that I have “tried everything” (naughty corner, time out, smacking, yelling, screaming, ignoring, etc, etc, etc) … But I now realise that I have not tried Ahimsa, not nearly enough.
Upon reflection, when I have been pushed far beyond my limits of patience and understanding I have responded in two ways; one with violence – smacking, shouting or punishing (by removing the favourite toy), and the situation has only ever escalated. And we have all been left feeling miserable. At other times when I have nothing left to give, I have “given-up” and hugged my hysterical, angry, confused child. And guess what? She has slowed her breathing, she has sunk into my embrace, and she has calmed down, eventually. And we have felt nourished and safe. She, and I. Both of us. Now I understand that violence only leads to more violence, whereas love arises from the abandonment of violence. It is my duty as a mother to practice Ahimsa. To be compassionate, kind and forgiving. To exercise restraint when required and to hold love in my heart. This is the only way I will stay connected to myself and to the needs of my children.
So next time she throws herself on the floor crying and screaming because she can’t have ice-cream for breakfast, or snatches a toy off her brother or refuses to brush her teeth, I will act with love. I will take 3 deep, long breaths and I will repeat the mantra “I am love” and I will support her to identify her feelings and work through them with her. Who knows, perhaps if I am firmly established in non-violence, she will let go of her own anger and we will reach a new level of understanding of each other. I am love.
Skye 200hr YTT, January 2016