There is a man in Italy
with a body made black
by tiny tattooed x's
a permanent reminder
of the burden he shares
the shameful knowledge
of a horrific truth
hidden in plain sight
the blood staining
the hands of humanity
is impossible to measure
6 million bodies burned
in German gas chambers
shaken to our very core
by the unimaginable cruelty
every two and a half hours
that same death toll is met again
with silence and disinterest
the clinking of silverware on ceramic
those 40,000 tiny x's
represent a body count
the sentient lives lost each second
to humanity's greedy palate
to grotesque notions of tradition
the earth groans under the weight
of our atrocities as they continue
unimpeded, growing every day
40,000 slaughtered every second
40,000 tiny markings of ink crowding one body
a silent protest, a sadly inadequate attempt
to atone for the immense pressure of suffering
that is impossible to conceive
that chokes the lungs of the world
with the thick, black smoke of karma
with the unreal irony of
the word "humane"
do not dare ask God for mercy
we don't know the meaning


One of the principles in yoga philosophy that I hold dear is called ahimsa. It is roughly translated to non-harming. When I first learned that this was a part of yoga, I assumed that all true yogis, especially the teachers, would all be at least vegetarians, if not vegans. I was quite disappointed to learn that was far from the case. Just like with most things, people tend to interpret ahimsa in their own ways.

No one wants to believe that they have been living wrong. Or that their life-style has been causing suffering. No one wants to have to change. These principles are therefore perceived to (conveniently) not require any actually adjustments from the person professing to follow them. Another good example of this phenomenon is the biblical commandment of thou shalt not kill. A sacred rule I’m sure all Christians would claim to follow while simultaneously preparing a dead animal for their family dinner.

I am not bringing this up to cast blame or criticize others. Today I just wanted to talk about the way ahimsa influences my own life. Even as a vegan there are grey areas that each person handles differently. I know vegans that, while claiming to value all life, still kill insects. And that is specifically what I wanted to talk about today.

Recently my house has been overrun with small moths. It is quite irritating and I won’t lie and say it hasn’t crossed my mind to squash them or buy sticky tape to get rid of them. It’s difficult to remember that they are living beings when we have been conditioned our entire lives to view them as insignificant pests. It has taken me years to finally overcome that mindset.

While these tiny creatures may just seem like irritations to us, to them it is their life. They are just as capable of suffering as any one of us. Who decides that a human life matters more than a moth’s? It would be quite biased for me or other humans to determine that. I have trained my heart to view these pests as precious beings that deserve my respect.

So while it may be much easier for me to kill these moths and protect my clothing from their hungry nibbles, I absolutely refuse to do so. Instead I have looked up natural ways to make them leave on their own. My favorite solution was lavender. Apparently these little darlings hate the scent of lavender. So yesterday I strategically placed cotton balls with lavender essential oil all throughout my house.

I have yet to see if this will actually be successful, but I have already been rewarded for this humane effort. Both my clothing and home smell absolutely lovely today. And I am reminded of my kind intention with every whiff of that soothing scent. I am hopeful that I will start to notice my small uninvited guests leaving soon, but even if this doesn’t work, I will not resort to taking their lives. It seems monstrous to me to take a life simply to make my life slightly more convenient. If necessary, I will take the time to capture each moth and put them safely outdoors myself.

Ahimsa is something that we must remind ourselves of with everything we do. Even if it isn’t easy. Even if most of the world can disregard it. I will continue to strive to honor and value ALL life. No matter how small (or annoying.) Even if I am laughed at and seem crazy for doing so. I hope the next time you find a small being “in your way” you will take a moment to acknowledge the light inside of them that we all share and choose to allow them the precious life they were given. A life that holds as much meaning to them as ours do to us.