Nonviolence–What’s it to You?
The very first yama is ahimsa, nonviolence.
What qualities come to mind when you hear that word? What qualities are displayed by a person who has mastered nonviolence? Give yourself a minute to think of an answer. I’ll wait until you are done.
I took a moment pondering those questions when I set about planning a class around the theme of ahimsa. It struck me that in a world where our many sources of media bombard us with up to the minute highlights of the warfare, terrorism, and other violent events that seem to plague humanity endlessly, many of us have lost touch with what nonviolence is. You only have to turn on the evening news to see that violence sells, and most news stories center around something negative happening. When we pay attention to such stories, we feel afraid, we feel angry, insecure. And then the news breaks to a commercial, and all of a sudden it seems that the people who go to that fast food restaurant are beautiful, happy, having fun. The guy who uses that brand of razor is handsome, in charge. The mom who uses that certain type of laundry detergent has a big beautiful house–really clean and organized–and her children are healthy and happy. The people drinking that beer are so attractive, they’re having so much fun, well, maybe it’s time for a cold one–that cold one.
We feel much better watching the products being advertised than we do witnessing those terrible real stories of death and destruction portrayed in the news. And so we get out our wallets and buy. Maybe we feel good for a moment or two after our purchases. Satisfied. Successful. Privileged. But underlying that moment of enjoyment is a sinking sense that we can never protect ourselves and our families from all of the dangers lurking around every corner. The fear rises in us again. Maybe we’re vaguely aware of it, maybe not. But all of a sudden something in us says, “Hey, let’s watch some TV. Yeah. We need to relax a little.” We reach for the remote…
Let’s try something different today. Instead of turning on the TV and watching the stuff that portrays how hurtful humans can be to one another, let’s take a moment to sit still, become quiet, and ask ourselves, “What is nonviolence?” Give it some thought. Is there a person in your life or someone that you know of that demonstrates the qualities you associate with nonviolence?
Dear readers, I want to give you some time to think. Tune in a little later for my next post in which we delve further into the practical application of ahimsa in our yoga practice, and in our daily lives. I invite you to leave your thoughts and comments below as you explore what nonviolence means to you.