Ahimsa

One of the students I tutor has been on my mind a lot the last week.  She’s in second grade but her attitude is closer to that of a junior higher.  Its maddening.  She is a sass-fest– and dying for attention.  Last Thursday I was at a loss–How to I deal with this 8 year old that thinks she’s 14?

Over the weekend I decided that my best approach would be to manipulate her into being nice.  Not bribe her with treats or threaten to call her mom or anything like that, but I would overcome my frustration with her and show her only love.  Not only would my actions and my words communicate love, but my thoughts as well (yikes!  Thought control is hard).

Yesterday, I sat her right next to me in tutoring–I know she craves attention from adults.  Because we have an odd number of students in our group, I partnered with her for all the activities we were playing that day.  I joked with her and laughed.  When she did something inappropriate, I gave her a positive alternative.  Holy smokes, it worked.  Her sas went from like a 12.5 out of 10 to a 2.

This little experiment in love got me thinking about my other relationships.  I thought about areas of anger or resentment that I store in my mind, heart, and body and how that effects my thoughts and interactions towards others.  Let me tell you, it doesn’t help.  I also thought about how often I react from my brainstem (fight or flight) rather than responding from my frontal lobe (creative problem solving zone).  In self reflection–I realize I’m in my brainstem way more than I want to be.

So, last night I was browsing through one of my yoga books and I decided to do a little refresher on the Yamas– yogi guidelines for social interactions.  The first one is Ahimsa–which is sanskrit  for non-violence or without himsa (violence).    Ahimsa is not only about not doing physical harm to other living things, but also about not doing emotional, mental, or spiritual harm to others.  It doesn’t just call us to avoid hurting others, it calls us to not accept or allow anything that causes harm–to sit back and do nothing while another is being harmed is in itself an act of violence.

As I was reading about Ahimsa and pondering its implications for my own life, the teachings of Ghandi, MLK, and Jesus kept coming to mind.  As someone who claims to follow the teachings of Jesus, and who preaches the nonviolent philosophies of Ghandi and MLK, it is humbling to look at my own thoughts and actions and see the himsa.

Having negative or violent thoughts (I’m not talking, “I WANT TO KILL THAT PERSON!”  I mean any thought of ill-will towards myself or another) does not serve this world and it also does not serve me!  I’m currently reading a book called Your Body  Speaks Your Mind by Deb Shapiro.  In it, she discusses how our thoughts are intimately connect with our body.  This isn’t some hoaxy, new age stuff.  Do you get stomach cramps when you’re anxious?  Or tight muscles?  A lowered immune system when you are stressed?   That’s your body speaking your mind.  Our non-loving thoughts not only make this world a less wonderful place, they also make our bodies a difficult place to be.  Shapiro quotes Native American, Sun Bear,

 The most common blocks are negative attitudes that a lot of people carry around with them all the time…In order to become healed, a person has to throw hatred, envy, jealousy, and other destructive attitudes and feelings.  Although such factors start within the mind, they quickly manifest in the body, becoming a stiff shoulder, sluggish liver, or other illness.  I believe all genuine healing addresses the problem of unblocking negativities in one way or another.

But how does one change their thoughts?  This is a difficult task indeed.   Its easy to let anger, resentment, judgement, and dare I say it, hatred, brew in our minds.  Its easy to react out of primal instincts in our brainstems rather than out of creativity and love in our frontal lobes.  I know because this is an area I tend to be lazy with.  I spend so much time attempting to keep my body healthy and pure that I forget to work on my mind/heart.  This week, I’m committing to sending out blessings every day.  This looks like me taking 5-10 minutes alone to sit my bum on a pillow, breathe deeply and with intention, and speak the names of people with whom I feel tension.  Most of these people are people I love dearly.  They are my most precious relationships–worth spending a few minutes on.  Because I believe in prayer, I make this a prayer, asking God to to send love and blessings to each person, one at a time as I breathe slowly in and out.

What I am finding is that the 5 minutes on my timer goes so fast!  The time runs out and I want to keep sending love and blessings!  Wow!  What a powerful practice–it takes me out of my yucky negative thinking and into a place where I want to keep sending love!  How wonderful!

I’d love if you joined me this week in reflecting on how our lives can be filled with ahimsa!  What things have you done to find space for love and compassion in areas that have been clouded with anger and/or complacency?  How do you bring your mind to this place?

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