When I think of the word “violence”, naturally, I will think of it as a forceful physical action with the intention to hurt or cause damage to others or oneself. In the Yoga sutras of Patanjali, the first Yama is Ahimsa which means “non-violence’ or ‘non-harming’. I believe it does not just refer to the physical aspect but also refers to our speech, emotions and mental state of mind.
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.”
– Lao Tzu
Lao Tzu, a philosopher and poet of ancient China described it beautifully when he wrote that our thoughts caused us to act the way we act and ultimately drives our behaviours.
A thought is like a seed planted in the mind and when we keep on watering and fertilizing with words of affirmation; it will grow and manifest itself through our actions. If we keep on harbouring negative or harmful thoughts, these will be revealed through the things we do or say like physically slapping someone or saying condescending words to another.
On the other hand, if we think positive thoughts, we will produce kindness, gentleness and loving actions.
To practice Ahimas is to be constantly aware and mindful of our thoughts, intentions and interactions with others, making sure we live in peace and harmony with people and with ourselves.
What can I do to apply Ahimsa in my life? Practise deep breathing. Through the 200hr YTT class, I have been taught many benefits of how different breathing techniques can either warm you up, cool you down or improve sleep, etc . I find deep breathing very comforting whenever a tense situation has arose and my natural tendency was to react to the first thought that came to mind. For example, I can be easily frustrated with people that turn up late for appointments and tend to make bitter remarks to hurt them.
However, when I stop reacting to the first thought and instead practise deep breathing, I become more aware of how I am reacting to the situation. More rational and understanding thoughts will start to fill my mind. “Maybe he was late because he has something critical to attend to” or “I am glad she is ok and turned up anyway. It could have been worse!” or “I am thankful I have some time on my own before she arrived.”
Deep breathing has definitely helped me to sift out irrational and negative thoughts and replace them with positive and peaceful ones. Non-violence starts with the thoughts in the mind.
200hr YTT Vinyasa Sept 2015 (Weekend)