4 Tips on How to live Ahimsa BEYOND the diet argument

Updated: Nov 5, 2021

{UPDATED August 2021}


Ahimsa is the Yogic teaching popularly known as non-violence and, in my humble opinion, overly connected to vegetarianism...but that's a different blog topic.


What we are going to explore is how the typical mindset surrounding Ahimsa can sometimes solely revolve around the diet issue that we overlook the everyday hurt and pain we cause to each other and even ourselves.


We are going to delve into 4 examples (based on actual events) and tips that hopefully help broaden our understanding and application of Ahimsa so that we can recognize its importance in our everyday lives.


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Ahimsa

You, my dear tribe member, are invited to pause your own judgement and take the stories with an open heart and mind and hopefully see things from a different perspective. My aim is to broaden how we use Ahimsa in our everyday life, where it belongs.


 

Example #1 - Stop imposing your choices on others in the name of Ahimsa.


Ok, while I said the diet argument is a separate topic, it is used as the situation for this first tip, but not the point.


I was once involved in an unfortunate Facebook discussion over Yoga practitioners not having integrity or not being a “true yogi” all because they eat meat. The philosophy of Ahimsa was thrown around as well as accusations, rationalisations and defences. I left the discussion after I read a comment starting with the words “How dare you…”


Everyone will attest to the truth in this statement: We are all human. And with that comes all the frailty and mistakes that humans make. This also applies to our passions. Even though we, as yoga practitioners, teach non-attachment, there are some things that just trigger our primal instinct to defend our own; which includes issues on any field of interest because what interests us reflect what we value. This can create a tunnel-vision effect to our thinking and feeling processes.

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Take the example above. With all the focus on pushing the ideals of non-violence and vegetarianism and the equally adamant defence, we ended up forgetting to apply Ahimsa towards each other. Judgement replaced non-hurting. Judgement brought pain.


It was ironic that while in the process of preaching Ahimsa, pain was inflicted through everyone’s judgment.


Food for thought...pun very much intended.


 

Example #2 - Don't let situations that are out of your control, control you.


My boys (hubby & son) and I attended a pop-culture convention a few months ago. It is a lot of fun and I can honestly say that I’m used to the crowds this type of event brings. But this particular convention was a test to my patience and to my Ahimsa. It was hot, too crowded, everyone smelt ripe, the queues were dreadfully long and slow…it was mayhem!


Now, those who know me will believe it when I say my patience can run thin. But before this happened, I took a step back in my mind and observed what was really going on:


My hubby and son were still smiling and having fun, people were chatting about how excited they were, experiences and obsessions were traded (reminder, this was at a pop-culture convention), people helped and directed each other to which queue they should go to next, and generally, everyone was having a good time regardless of the conditions we were in.

So I asked myself: Will I let my impatience and discomfort blind me to the wonderful camaraderie that was happening? More importantly, will I inflict pain and hurt on the people I love by letting my judgement of things I cannot control ruin the day?


The answer was simple: No. My Ahimsa freed me from judgement and made the day even more memorable.

 

Example #3 - Stop being harsh on yourself.


In my early years of teaching yoga, I have never had a student walk out on my class; until it finally happened.


I was covering for another teacher and while I had covered the class once before, the class and I hadn’t built a rapport yet. They weren’t used to me, my style of teaching and the type of flow I teach. I suppose this frustrated one particular lady and she walked out two-thirds of the way into the class. It was quite a blow to my confidence.


My mind dredged up judgements and doubts on whether I chose the right career path, if I was good enough to succeed in teaching yoga or if I should cut my losses and go back to corporate work.

The next time I covered the class, a number of students greeted me with warm smiles and, dare I say, excitement as they said “Oh, you’re covering our class again!” and “I really enjoyed it the last time. It’s so good to have you again” and “Thank you for covering our class!”


The lady who didn’t like my class was there but she didn’t even go in when she saw me.

But this time I didn’t listen to the doubts my self-judgement brought up. I decided to be thankful to the students who were there. The ones who generously showed me kindness and compassion deserved to have it shown back to them. So I gave them my full attention, energy and a class they enjoyed.


I also decided to extend kindness and compassion to myself and stop the hurtful self-judgement as a regular practice when things don't go according to plan!


 

Example #4 - Don't let others hurt you, because then, you are hurting yourself.


Sometime in the middle of this year (2021) I excitedly and gleefully shared my website on a Facebook group I was a member of. The group was hosted by a marketer who teaches yoga teachers how to market our own courses and earn good money for what we do.


It's important that I tell this little bit of background first because what happened next was so ironic.


A few hours after my sharing, I was criticized for daring to position my yoga offering as "Yoga without the woo" by someone who was in this same group I mentioned.


She even implied that I go back and re-learn the history of the Indian people & colonialization.

Side note, I'm Filipino. I know about colonialization.

She also alluded to the "sacredness" of yoga and implied my little tag line was blasphemous.


I told her straight up that I was hurt, greatly offended and outlined the reason; a couple of which are:

  1. She didn't know me and obviously wasn't my niche, so all my copy wouldn't resonate with her; and,

  2. If we were all to stick to the "sacredness" of yoga, the mere fact that it is practiced outside of its place of origin, practiced by women and is a billions upon billions of dollars as an industry should be offensive and blasphemous; I realize that it probably is to some, but that's a different topic.


I told her all that, asked that she desists in contacting me and wished her yoga business well.


The point of this story is this - don't let others walk all over you in the name of Ahimsa.


You have the right to stand up for yourself. Not letting others push you around shows that you love and respect yourself. If you worry that in defending yourself, you in turn would cause pain, then my suggestion is:

  1. Rise above the hurt and pain being flung at you with confidence tempered with kindness,

  2. Stick to the points they mention and address them individually, being as objective as you can,

  3. Be clear on how they made you feel and address the behaviour, not the person,

  4. Be brief. Don't linger and let the moment pass so you can start to heal.

 

The concept of non-violence can sometimes be too big that we overlook the everyday “ordinary” and subtle mental and emotional pain we inflict on ourselves and others.


But the choice not to hurt is always on us and reflects our intentions and values.


If we distil Ahimsa to a simple “non-hurting” or “non-harming”, we become more aware of the potential effects of our thoughts, actions and words.


Our actions resulting from mindful discernment of these thoughts, actions and words are (hopefully) informed, intuitive, compassionate and kind.

In the end, how we treat ourselves and each other is a reflection of who we are, what we value & how you live the concept of Ahimsa in your life.



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