This weeks inspiration was based on ahimsa, the first of the yamas. Ahimsa is the sanskrit word that is translated as non-harming. The practice of ahimsa asks us to embrace nonviolence at a level of speech, thought, and action. Again I have drawn my inspiration from the book Meditations from the Mat by Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison. The following passage is from Day 20 of the book.
“After writing an essay about ahimsa, I went to my local whole-foods store. I am a daily customer, and many of my students shop there as well, so I usually spend a good deal of time chatting with people I know. With the notion of nonharming fresh in my mind, though, I found myself talking to people in the checkout line I did not know. The impulse to reach out came from the spiritual injunction at the heart of ahimsa: that we should not draw lines around ourselves, and that we should see all beings as out brothers and sisters. To my suprise that morning, I discovered that I enjoyed talking to strangers at least as much as I enjoyed talking to my friends and students.
Upon reflection, I realized that it was my own fear of rejection and my fear of others’ judgement of me that had held me back from making this a regular practice. Many times I had experienced the joy and magic of connecting with strangers, but creating such connections had not become a habit, because of my own fear. As I’ve come to understand the true meaning of ahimsa, I’ve found more connections with my world. With relief, I’ve begun to let go of my fear of other people. My fear of strangers has been an aspect of suffering in my life– and this yama challenges me to get over it. Our suffering is a reflection of imbalance and delusion; the yamas and niyamas bring us out of delusion, into clarity and balance. And with balance comes utter peace, and the joy we seek. “
The example I share here has been fresh in my mind for the last week or so. I am usually shy when it comes to meeting strangers and am aware that this is something I need and want to work on. I tend to be the person who looks pissed off when my mind is simply preoccupied or I am nervous. I am working on changing that so my expression reflects my true feelings of gratefulness and joy. This week I have focussed on introducing myself to people that I often see around town or the yoga studio but have never spoken to. It such a silly thing. I see so many people almost on a daily basis in my community and at the studio. We share so many of the same interests so why are we not friends? Most likely because of the fear of introducing ourselves to one another. At least thats what it is in my mind. There is so much potential for amazing friendships and opportunities to blossom by reaching out in your community. I will continue to practice ahimsa and continue to get over my fear. I know that its worth it and that it will change my life for the better.
The challenge I provided for my students this week was to express their gratitude for the people in their life. Tell someone that you have never told that you care about them, that you appreciate them, that you love them. Give them a hug! Give everyone a hug! It can be so therapeutic. Think about that feeling when you have had a rough day or a rough week and you get that opportunity to hug someone you care about and your body immediately relaxes, and you take a big deep breath and its the first time in a while that you have noticed you are breathing. It provides hope, and strength, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on if thats what you need. There are so many amazing people out there waiting to enter your life. Be open to it and encourage it through your own practice of ahimsa.