The Golden Rule
The crown jewel of the yamas, or moral tenets of yogic philosophy, is that of ahimsa, or non-violence. All other yamas and niyamas find their roots in the soil of ahimsa, since nonviolence informs the ways in which those guidelines manifest. For example, satya, or truth-telling, could easily become a way to kick people when they are down if not applied with a heavy dose of ahimsa through consideration of timing, and whether or not your truthful words need to be said aloud at all. Not harming other humans goes without saying, but we must also be kind to animals and the gentle planet we inhabit- we can’t spray chemicals on our lawns that kill weeds and bees without some karmic scale being tipped, even if that’s difficult to hear. Nonviolence towards humans in this context means more than just not hitting someone when you want to or resisting the urge to mete out vengeance against an enemy in the heat of the moment- ahimsa has a depth that brings the soul to silence when meditated upon.
Violence doesn’t manifest only in the way we treat other people, and it can reasonably be argued that the most violence we commit is often directed at ourselves. Think about all the work we have to do after our emotionally toxic teenage years to undo the negative self-talk many of us accidentally get in the habit of speaking: “I’m not good enough or cool enough to do anything, everything sucks, the world will be better off if I were dead” -just to name a few examples. Even 16 years out of high school, I still find myself in weaker moments telling myself terrible things that I would absolutely never say to another human being, but here I am, getting cut by my own sword.
Words spoken either in silence or out loud in the mirror aren’t bound by any accountability, and often hurt on a spiritual level deeper than anything others could do to you. Just like with anything else in the realm of yoga, it’s all a practice because no one is a master. All of us have moments when we aren’t feeling great and fall victim to a lot of old ways of thinking and being. Remember if the old tape starts playing (if you have one of those) to not become angry at yourself, but meet that voice and yourself with nonviolence, as well. There is space in these moments for spiritual repair, and seeing moments of weakness as a chance for transformation is quintessential ahimsa.
-Colleen, Sacred Hour Massage Therapist + Yoga Teacher + Staff Writer + Plant Whisperer