One of the tenants of Vedic philosophy upon which yoga is based is Ahimsa – do no harm, non-violence. I am no Vedic philosophy expert but I have been contemplating how the goal of non-violence is expressed in daily living. How do you live in such a way that you do no harm?
Most often this is thought of in its most literal and obvious sense such as not physically hurting anyone or following a vegetarian or vegan diet. More broadly harm and violence can be considered as how you make others feel through your words and actions. The pain that comes from harsh, thoughtless words can be equally harmful as that which comes for a physical blow. Being gentle in how you speak and act towards all who you come in contact with is also Ahimsa.
Less often we think about how we act towards ourselves. It can be much easier it seems to be consciously compassionate towards others than it is be be gentle with ourselves. How many times a day to you think negative thoughts about your body or your abilities. “I hate my legs”. “I’m hopeless, I’ve stuffed up again”. “I have no willpower, I don’t deserve to be beautiful”. “I’m so old/fat/ugly/useless etc”.
The stream of negative thoughts we constantly barrage ourselves with becomes a river of pain that we allow to wash over us every day. Consider some of the things you tell yourself. Would you say that to your daughter or your best friend? What would the impact of those harsh words be on their sense of self?
Hurtful comments and criticism would not help them feel confident to make positive choices and would be unlikely to bring about any healthy changes in their life. They would shrink, hide, feel ashamed and lose the ability to make positive choices. The river of harmful words and judgments would drown their spirit.
Yet this is what you are doing to yourself every time you look at your body with judgment.
Practising Ahimsa towards yourself is equally as important as it is to act compassionately towards others. When you are at peace with yourself there is a natural flow of peace towards others and towards life in general.
Start to catch yourself every time a hurtful self-critical through comes to mind. Remember YOU are in control of your thoughts, do not let them control you. Replace the criticism with positive affirmation – out loud. Rather than ” I hate myself, I have put on even more weight” try ” Today I am making healthy choices to support my gorgeous body”.
You don’t even have to believe this statement at first – just say it, keep repeating it, start to take control of your thoughts. Where you place your energy and focus is what will increase in your life. Energy focused an self-loathing will only bring confirmatory behaviours and outcomes that continue the spiral.
Treat yourself with compassion just for today.
Start to rewrite the script you play in you mind.
Ahimsa starts with yourself. Start today.