The Eight-Limb path was written by Patanjali thousands of years ago. If you google it there will be many different thoughts on dates and time frame. I am going to share the Yamas and Niyamas with you over the next several weeks. As I highlight all 10 principals, please keep in mind that this is my interpretation. Just as we interpret the Bible, it is a matter of who is telling the story and how it makes sense to the individual.
The Yamas consist of five universal principals ~ Ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacarya (moderation), Aparigraha (non-covetousness). Starting to sound a bit familiar?
Let's start with the first Yama, Ahimsa. Nonviolence, kindness, compassion for self and others and our environment. Translation ("a":not, "himsa": to kill.)
It seems pretty straightforward when you think of violence towards others, but what about compassion for ourselves? Not harming ourselves? Are we treating our body, mind and spirit with kindness?
Let's start with our thoughts because that is where I live from. Are your thoughts harming you? I attend Holy Family Church and also teach yoga there twice a week. Father Phil says, "Lord be in my thoughts, Lord be on my lips, Lord live in my heart." I say this to myself everyday, many times a day and still, I have judgmental or limiting thoughts that take away from my energy. I can feel myself going from a positive mindset to a negative one and if I don't take the time to step back and change my thoughts, it can harm me in many ways. It can also harm those around me if I let negative thoughts turn into words or actions.
How about GOSSIP?!!!! This harms ourselves and others. I have had situations where I've had to withdraw myself from a friendship because the conversations were always about someone else and it just made me feel so terrible. Not just mentally but physically drained from being around negative talk. Gossip can KILL someone's spirit! Period! In no way can gossip be venting or letting things go. I cannot think of a time when it comes from a place of LOVE.
What about our actions towards others and ourselves? I suppose you could classify the act of speech as an action. As I sit here I am really contemplating what actions I have taken recently. I can think of a time when I became defensive because of something that was said to me. I can think of a time when I numbed myself with food because I pushed myself too far past my limit. I can think of a time when I avoided action at all because I just didn't feel like it. And yes physically I pushed myself when I knew I could injury myself moving wood from the woods behind our house.
As we grow in life sometimes we embrace the ideas and values of those around us. We live what we learn. If you are here today, you have lived long enough to make the conscious choice to develop your own ideas and values. What does Ahimsa mean to you? Are you courageous enough to stand up for what you believe when it comes to embracing nonviolence in the small everyday things, such as nourishment through food, who you choose to spend your time with, doing what you love, and treating others with compassion and kindness, no matter how they make you feel? You may not be a physically violent type of person, but Ahimsa goes way beyond just the physical.
I would like to end with with a quote from one of my very favorite teachers, Aadil Palkhivala, "Since we are in all things and all things are in us, we do harm to ourselves when we treat people and our environment with disrespect."
I really hope that this resonates with you today. Kindness matters~