Ahimsa - Part 3
Updated: Oct 26, 2021
In the last of an unintentional, three-parter on ahimsa (non-violence), I’d like to start by talking about the inaugural lecture at my yoga course in February.
It was delivered by the director of the institute and, in that, she stressed the importance of never, ever leaving your comfort zone.
Given that my life was now all about transformation and growth, this did not sit well with me. And so, after the talk, I approached her: surely, she’d made a mistake in what she’d said…?
She said no, that she’d meant exactly what she’d, repeating that “you should never leave your comfort zone”. As I looked at her, thoroughly confounded, she explained that “instead, you should slowly expand your comfort zone”.
As my 4-week course unfolded, I learnt that when practising asana (yoga positions), we should be careful not to injure ourselves and during pranayama (breathing exercises), we must not go beyond our capacity. Doing so, is considered violent towards ourselves, and yoga was all about ahimsa.
Living in a world that is characterised by pushing beyond our limits, this seemed strange. Surely (continuing with a yoga example), if you want to get into a headstand, it’s not going to happen by magic. A certain amount of effort is required and it is going to be scary as you try – but it doesn’t need to be as scary as you think.
If the arms are made stronger, the shoulder girdle stable, the chest open and the mind focused, the headstand, which is considered to be the king of the asanas, is actually not that difficult. Doing it without even one of these components, is likely to cause unnecessary strain and, ultimately, injury. It’s not about execution, rather about intention.
Is your ego rushing into something just to prove that you can? Or are you slowly building up to something and enjoying the process? What is the thought behind the action? And how much non-violence, or kindness, to yourself, is there in it? When you finally get to carrying out the action, it is effortless, or is it characterised by aggression?
I remember going to a lecture given by a visiting monk a few years ago. The way the energy in the room changed as he glided in, was pretty amazing. I’ve been to many talks and this was the first time I’d experienced this.
They say that when someone’s mind is so pure, others will lay down their arms. This is exactly what I felt. His execution was faultless. No struggle, just being.
It’s exactly what I’d like to embody; being so sure of who I am, that thought, word and deed, all reflect this non-violence. No aggression is required to assert anything. In fact, the strength comes in the surrender. It’s like watching a rose slowly open. No rush, the outcome assured.
It's as we do this, that our comfort zones actually slowly begin to expand. Little by little, we learn, we grow, we let go, we just be.
It’s in the not “leaning in” that the real magic happens.