Commitment to Non-Violence Talk by Dalai Lama

Our Yoga classes this week were about getting you to think about practicing Ahimsa on the mat and in your life. All benefits of practicing Yoga on the mat are negated without Ahimsa. Just like a physician takes an oath to “first do no harm”, we also take the same oath towards ourselves. The yoga philosophy teaches us that we are the world as we are all interconnected, so when we treat others kindly we are also treating ourselves with kindness and vice versa.

Just like the “Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz teaches us to change the world by first changing the world you create within. As we contemplate where we act little violence’s upon ourselves we can start to practice being different on the inside. This requires much awareness and to be aware requires energy. So using your energy wisely is very important. When we over burden ourselves, and try to squeeze too much into each day, then we are going against Ahimsa.  When we feel fear, rushed, overwhelmed, judgmental, out of balance, we are more likely to have negative thoughts and actions towards ourselves and others. We may snap at a loved one, be too busy to take care of ourselves properly, close our hearts, which are all subtle violent acts. As Ahimsa invites us to be our most brilliant and best self, we can be proactive in the following Four Agreements: 

COURAGE~ is not the absence of fear, but the ability to be afraid without being paralyzed. We find courage by facing our fears. If we keep ourselves safe, how will our courage grow? One of the reasons for Gandhi’s unmatched power was that he continued to stay with life; he didn’t run when life got too confusing or difficult. He stayed and learned from the moment, and in the process he became a skill full leader no one could match and a force that no one could stop. For Gandhi, fear became a stimulus to develop his courage. What have you been afraid to do or say? Roar like a lion and Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway! 

BALANCE~ creates harmony within. When we are out of balance with too much to do, feeling overwhelmed or even when we are stuck in a rut, we are more likely to be out of harmony with others. It is not always easy to create a balanced life as we can fall victim to false promises and fill every breathable space with appointments and activities. Dr. Phil Nuerunberger said “The deep harmony of balance is my most precious commodity and I guard it fiercely”. Our body, mind and soul need time to digest and assimilate and need time to rest. We need to allow space to reflect, space to journal, space for closure, space for imagination, and space to feel the calling of the life force within us. We can’t plan for balance but it comes when we can listen to the guidance and wisdom of the inner voice which knows what we need to be vital and health. When we live in balance we will automatically live in non-violence. When we are out of balance we tend to feel powerless which leads to outward aggression in the form of frustration or anger, or withdrawal inward to depression and victimization. Ahimsa invites us to question the feeling of powerlessness rather than accept it. We have forgotten how much choice we really have. We can choose to take action or to change the story we are telling ourselves. We can do this by practicing gratitude, trusting in the moment and also about thinking of others.

SELF LOVE- also helps us to stay in balance. When we are harsh and demanding with ourselves then how can we be loving with others? When we learn to fall in love with ourselves, we leave no room for the violence of expectations and judgments. We will express love for others by treating them the same way we treat ourselves. Love lies at the core of non-violence and begins with self-love. Not an ego-centric love but a love that is forgiving and lenient; a love that sees the humour in the imperfections. Only when we can find love for all the parts of ourselves, can we begin to express fully the love that wells up inside of us for others. And this means to forgive ourselves too or else we carry guilt, which holds us hostage and a heavy burden around our hearts. Our inability to love and accept all the pieces of ourselves creates ripples-tiny acts of violence that have huge and lasting impacts on others. Where fear creates harm and violence, love creates expansion and nonviolence and the true safety that we seek. Nonviolence is woven with love, and love of other is woven with love of self; these cannot be separated. When we think we know better for others it becomes a subtle way we do violence. Non-violence asks us to trust the other’s ability to find the answer they are seeking. It asks us to have faith in the other and to trust the other’s journey and love and support others to their highest image of themselves, not our highest image of them. Even when another is suffering, the greatest gift we can offer is to sit with them as they are. We need to trust suffering and trust challenge and trust mistakes; they are what refine us when we don’t run from them. Worry is another way that violence gets masked as caring. Worry is a lack of faith in the other and cannot exist simultaneously with love. Worry is fear that hasn’t grown up. 

COMPASSION~ begins to blossom in our hearts when we truly love and accept all of our self and we begin to see others with different eyes. We learn compassion as we dissolve our personal version of the world, and grow gentle eyes that are not afraid to see reality as it is. We learn compassion as we stop living in our heads, where we can neatly arrange things, and ground ourselves in our bodies, where things might not be so neat. We learn compassion as we stop trying to change ourselves and others and choose instead to soften the boundaries that keep us separated from what we don’t understand. We learn compassion as we do simple acts of kindness and allow other’ lives to be as important as our own. Every human being walking this earth has painful stories tucked in the corners of their hearts. If we could remember this truth, perhaps we could see with the eyes of compassion rather than the eyes of our own judgments and preferences.

This jewel of Ahimsa, non-violence- asks us to step lightly, do no harm, and to honour the relationship we have with the earth, with each other, and with ourselves. A young holocaust victim Etty Hillesum said: “Ultimately we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

Namaste, Nienke

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