Have you heard of the Yamas before? The Yamas are the first limb of the eight limbs of Yoga, as described by Patanjali in the Sutras (you could call the sutras the guide of yoga). The Yamas form the very first step towards the goal of Yoga – which is self realisation. Simply put, the Yamas are like the foundation or the moral values we should try to live our lives by. Patanjali tells us that the Yamas are a guide for everyone, regardless of who they are, where they come from or what background they may have. These are universal.
The first Yama is AHIMSA. Which means non-violence, non-harm to self and others in thought, or word, or deed. It's literally the first thing to take care of on our path to 'enlightenment'. Which is not some woo woo term that no-one can attain - enlightenment is something we can all reach because we already are enlightened. We already are a divine being of light and unconditional love - one with the divine source energy (some call this god, universe, creator etc) and once we remember that (self-realisation) we reach enlightenment. Being kind to ourselves, the planet and all other beings wherever possible - are all acts of love. They are Ahimsa in action, and are the first step to lead us to this remembering of who we are.
The Dalai Lama once said “Be kind whenever possible, it is always possible.” I wholeheartedly believe this is true. But, it is a practice and remembering that it is always possible sometimes feels challenging because our human ego gets in the way. It's challenging to be kind to ourselves as most of us have some pretty deep set programming that tells us that we are not already divine beings of love and light, instead it tells us that we are less than "perfect" and that we should criticise or judge ourselves for not being good enough. And I think we could all agree - it's challenging towards others at times, especially if someone hurts our feelings, or says or does something that goes against our own beliefs or values. And on top of that, if we are in a state of fear, we may react to another out of this fear and instead of kindness, fall into judgement, defensive reactions and self-protective behaviour.
How can we practice Ahimsa, and remember that kindness is always possible? Well, we have to start with our own practice. Here are 3 of my suggestions.
1. Be intentional with your energy
Everything is energy. Words, thoughts, deeds all carry energetic frequencies. When you put energy out in the world, it has an effect on everything else around it. We are energy - so that means it affects us too. Did you know they've measured the heart's energetic field to reach16 feet around it? We are all impacting each other all the time. So, what kind of energy are you putting out there as you speak, think or act? Are you conscious of what you are doing or are you just simply reacting without awareness? Stop and think first. For example, if someone hurts you - take a moment to pause, reflect, breathe. A moment of space before you react will help you to remember that people usually only lash out at something they feel they lack inside. So, understanding this, from there you can perhaps find understanding, forgiveness and compassion for the other. And, if it was you who acted unkindly, or reacted to something from a fear based reaction, then you can look within with compassion and try to understand where it was coming from, take responsibility, forgive yourself and make changes next time round.
2. Become aware of your thoughts
Be aware of your thoughts. Most of your thoughts are probably not really your own. Ever think of that? They come from parents, teachers, media, or other external sources, and you believe them as your own. But they are not yours - they are what you've been taught to believe, but that doesn't make them all true. So, when you are aware of the thoughts, you can determine whether or not to agree with them. You can recognise those that are coming from a place of Ahimsa, love and truth, and those that are carrying a lower vibrational energy (eg fear, greed, anger, blame, hopelessness). Once you recognise them, you can begin to practice changing them one thought at a time, and repeat this as many times as you need to. For example: "I hate my body, its.....whatever." Every time you hear yourself think it, just simply change it. "Thankyou body! You are beautiful and I am grateful for the way you carry me around every day." Sometimes, when I hear myself think something that is not true - I say "Cancel that!" and start again. Keep practicing, and you can rewire your brain! 3. Choose to act from a place of love
You are a sovereign being and you have the power to choose for yourself at any given moment. And at any given moment you have choices to make. Therefore, you can decide the way in which you would like to live your life. Regardless of what you’ve been taught or what others say, you have inherent wisdom that can tell you what is right for you and what is wrong. Like in Yoga - there are many ways to live your life - because you are unique and individual. Your path in this life is unique and individual and does not fit in a box with everyone else. Their path is different to yours - and that is awesome - we can all learn and grow from each other. If practicing Ahimsa is the first step to moving in the direction of unconditional love, then maybe you can start practicing kindness by honouring this incredible gift you have to discern the truth and learn to do things from a place of love for yourself. When you come up to a moment of choice, instead of following blindly along, try going within for a moment. And notice if you are doing what your inner wisdom tells you to do. Notice how this makes you feel. How does this feel in your body, in your heart, your energy? Trust in your self. Is it an act of love? Once you decide for yourself if this is right or wrong, then move in the direction of your choice. And don't worry - this also takes practice so if you choose something you later realise wasn't actually moving towards love - no judgement! You can always start again in the next moment. And the next.