This weekend was a bit of an emotional rollarcoaster. I was more than slightly stressed about my two essays that were due (so excited that they are all finished now!) and I had an experience during my waitressing shift that shook me up a little.
To sum it up in a nutshell, some people’s food order didn’t come on time, which was partially my fault. Partially. But I don’t want to get too much into the details of it, because I don’t need to justify anything, and because that is not really the point. The way they reacted was got me thinking a lot about Ahisma. Ahisma is something that I first learnt about last year when I did my three month yoga course on Salt Spring Island in Canada, and it’s something that resonated with me very much.
From my best friend Wikipedia, Ahisma “is a term meaning ‘compassion’ and ‘not to injure’. The word is derived from the Sanskrit root hiṃs – to strike; hiṃsā is injury or harm, a-hiṃsā is the opposite of this, i.e. cause no injury, do no harm. Ahimsa is also referred to as nonviolence, and it applies to all living beings – including all animals (source).
While I can hope that people will always treat me with compassion/ahisma, it’s probably not going to happen that way (especially when people are hangry- hungry angry 😉 ). I can’t control this. What I can control, is practicing ahisma myself, in the form of trying to empathize with the person who is acting in a less-than-kind way to me. Having compassion for their experience, and whatever past history of theirs has brought them to this point of dealing with a situation by using meanness, makes me feel more understanding and more able to move on from the experience.
And while this is important, so is practicing Ahisma towards myself. Not beating myself up for when my intentions are pure and I am trying my best. Mistakes happen. Learn from the mistake, be kind to myself, and continue to do my best. Keep my heart free from meanness (which I think can be easy to overlook when it is directed to oneself). Then move on.
From a great starting point article on the yamas and niyamas of yoga:
“The first yama is perhaps the most famous one: ahimsa, usually translated as “nonviolence.” This refers not only to physical violence, but also to the violence of words or thoughts. What we think about ourselves or others can be as powerful as any physical attempt to harm. To practice ahimsa is to be constantly vigilant, to observe ourselves in interaction with others and to notice our thoughts and intentions. Try practicing ahimsa by observing your thoughts when a smoker sits next to you. Your thoughts may be just as damaging to you as his cigarette is to him.”
To sum up:
What does ahimsa/non-violence mean to you?