You may recognize this to be the first line of the Hippocratic Oath. While the sentiment is in the actual oath, this line is not. BUT it is absolutely the first vow of yoga: Ahimsa.
It seems like a no brainer. None of us sets out to do harm – at least, we don’t think we do. It’s completely obvious that we should not kill each other or smack people because we don’t like what they have to say. But this Yama goes farther and deeper than that.
This is about equanimity. The good news is this; it is always there within you, always has been, always will be. We, as humans, have piled a lot of beliefs, ego and righteousness on top of our compassionate kindness. We believe certain things to be right or wrong, good or bad. We have developed preferences and biases. We have lost our ability to accept others (and maybe especially ourselves) as they are.
Whew! How do we get back to that place?
Swami Kripalu said, “Ahimsa is the state that exists when all violence in the heart and mind have subsided. It is not something we have to acquire; it is always present and only needs to be uncovered. When one practices ahimsa, or nonviolence, one refrains from causing distress – in thought, word or deed – to any living creature, including oneself.”
There is this wonderful practice of awareness or noticing. For every thought you are aware of, notice if it could, in any way, be construed as harmful or unkind. For everything you see, read, hear, do the same. Just notice. Make no effort to change your behavior or your thought, just notice. Don’t judge. Not yourself, not others. The more aware you become of the thoughts that are moving you away from equanimity and joy, the more likely they will simply dwindle and slowly be replaced with thoughts of compassion and acceptance.
This is a biggie. Basically, yoga is asking you to love yourself and all of creation exactly where and how they are. It is asking you to stop comparing, competing and complaining. It may seem that yoga is asking you to be different, change your personality and all the things that make you the bodacious you that you are.
Not so. Yoga seeks to uncover and enhance all those light-filled places while sanding off the judgmental edges of the personality that may cut you or another. Yoga is chipping away your fears and self-doubt, even maybe self-loathing to reveal the light that is already there. All this shiny juiciness is already there. And you already know the way in.
On your mat. During your physical asana practice, begin to notice the thoughts, just notice. During meditation, what is coming up? Go to that rectangle of love and acceptance, where you can slough off all the mental and physical detritus and begin to see your own ahimsa nature shining through.
Then take THAT out into the world.