What is ahimsa, and how does it relate to power? How can we practice this ancient ethical code in our modern day and improve our lives? To answer this, we first need to step back and discover what ahimsa is.
What is Ahimsa?
In Sanskrit, himsa means harm. Adding the letter “a” before the word means the prefix “non.” Ahimsa means non-violence or non-harming to ourselves and all living things. Ahimsa is one of the yamas, or ethical codes according to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The yamas are the first of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga. The yamas can be thought of as a standard of how we should conduct ourselves, or self-restraint. Ahimsa is the first of the five yamas.
Ahimsa can be regarded as a very strict code of absolute resolve for non-violence. You can shoo a spider out of your home, rather than squishing it. In more extreme cases, you can remain in the dark at night in order to protect insects that might fly into the light. You can choose to change your diet and not eat animal protein. But don’t worry, I’m not going to tell anyone to restrict their diet. I want to make people aware of the power that negative thoughts/feelings have on their body, and how to regain control through Ahimsa.
How do We Loose Power by Not Practicing Ahimsa?
Violence can disguise itself in many negative emotions, it does not always need to be physical. Everyone holds some kind of pain inside themselves, it’s human nature. Think of negative thoughts as subtle acts of violence against yourself. Allowing those negative thoughts to repeat or multiply gives away your power to whatever it was that disturbed you. When you focus on negative influences it clouds your judgement, and creates a negative reaction, either by thought, word or deed. This can create a toxic environment within us. Stress from negative thoughts send messages to the body that trigger fight or flight response. This fight or flight response causes the adrenal glands to secrete the stress hormone, cortisol which in turn can lower your immune system, making you more susceptible to pain and sickness. Take control. Learn to experience negative feelings without reacting negatively to them.
Incorporating the Power of Ahimsa into your Life
- Use yoga to access your own pain by allowing yourself to be open and free to confront your own inner darkness without judgement. Yoga can help you to transform negative emotions and tendencies and release it. The more frequently you practice yoga, the greater the benefit you will have to your emotional well-being. Through yoga you can find the source of the negative aspect, and bring awareness to it. Observe it, and decide that it will no longer serve you, and let it go. Yoga can bring a feeling of calm and peace that will resonate within your being.
- Meditate. Consciously meditate on gratitude, the highest energy frequency in our body. Be grateful for the experience that the negative emotion/thought gave you as a lesson, and learn from it. Decide it will no longer affect you and replace the negative emotion with forgiveness and gratitude. Find grace without force.
- Be aware. Notice when ill-feelings arise in your body. Feel the how your body is responding, whether you furrow your brow, stiffen your shoulders, or grit your teeth. Sit with the feeling for a while and fully experience it without reaction. Is your heart beating faster? Is your breath more shallow? Recognize the signals your body is giving you when you are experiencing negative emotion.
- Look for compassion. Accept things for the way they are. Let go of negative emotion, and replace them with loving thoughts. Positive emotion and thoughts create dopamine, a chemical released by the neurons that makes you feel good and relaxed.
Find Strength in Peace
Ahimsa is universal love. Ahimsa is forgiveness, whether it is forgiving yourself or others. Mend what needs healing, and bring about the peace that you need to find tranquility. Ahimsa is Sakti or power. Never let it be wasted on negative energy. Most of all, Ahimsa is true strength, and journey is inside of you.
Ahimsa is an attribute of the brave. Cowardice and ahimsa don’t go together any more than water and fire.