Ahimsa: May All Beings Everywhere Be Happy And Free
Ahimsa means practicing kindness to all living things– to ourselves, to others and to animals in our every thought and every action. Even negative thoughts can be destructive and damaging, and ahimsa requires that we work on freeing ourselves from negative thoughts as well as committing unkind deeds.
It is often said that if you can perfect the practice of ahimsa, you would not need to learn anything else, as everything falls under this vast umbrella. To fully practice ahimsa we must be constantly vigilant, to observe ourselves in our interactions with others, observe our thoughts about those interactions and the intention behind our words. We want our intention to align with our impact, and practicing this Yama helps us achieve that.
Practicing compassion is an important practice of Ahimsa– compassion to yourself and to others. When you fail to live up to your own expectations, rather than beating yourself up and pushing harder, forgive yourself and move on. Practicing this principle helps us re-record the tapes in our heads that tell us we are not enough, and teaches us to love ourselves– as we are, and as we are not. Often in asana, a lack of ahimsa shows up as practitioners themselves to the point of injury, exhaustion or distraction.
A great example of this practice in action is the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Even when faced with violence and the threat of bodily harm, Gandhi practiced non-violence as a way to resist and engaged in a power far greater than reaction or violence. The practice of veganism or vegetarianism would be a practice of Ahimsa.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.