Ahimsa

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.

We Are One

I really enjoy reading yoga books. They are like text meditations. They help me take a step back and see this life from different perspectives. The book I was reading yesterday was reminding me that we are not these isolated thoughts, emotions, experiences, or sensations. We are the spectator, the grand awareness behind it all. We are not separate. We are all one with everything and everyone. We are each just a small expression of that great consciousness, experiencing itself in an infinite number of ways.

It is a beautiful, comforting realization. While I’m a skeptic at heart and I have no way of proving this concept to be true, I choose to believe it. I’ve seen the endless cycles within cycles. I’ve experienced the silent awareness inside of me. I want to love and accept all that there is as myself and learn to behave accordingly.

This book pointed out to me that this life is filled with illusions of separation. And that false sense of separateness is the root of all forms of suffering. Yoga philosophy teaches us how to live our lives from a sense of connections instead. Then we may finally be able to see through the illusion, dissolve our suffering, and find true union.

And yet even knowing these things, the road laid out is daunting and long. It isn’t easy to break free of these chains I’ve been crafting for myself my whole life. Living as one means being feeling vulnerable, opening your arms and your heart to the whole world. It is hard to truly surrender to that higher knowledge, your higher self, and live from that place every day. Fear and doubt are strong, weaving new webs of misconceptions all the time.

While I may not be able to start aligning my actions with my inner beliefs just yet, this deep truth is still a great comfort to me. I am not alone. I don’t have to be afraid to love freely and unabashedly. Everything is going to be okay in the end. In fact there is no end. Everything is already okay. I am merely hear to witness, to learn, to grow, to experience, to enjoy. There is nothing to fear, so smile, live this life in whatever way makes you happiest. Stay open, keep loving, and surrender to all that is before you, surrender to yourself. And while surrender can be scary, there is peace in that surrender. So much peace.

What Is This?

I once read that coming back to the thought what is this in meditation can help bring you back to experiencing the present moment. I often do this during my meditations and throughout my day when I notice myself becoming wrapped up in anxious thoughts. It has been surprisingly effective for me. It helps me come back into my body and just notice what it feels like to exist in this very moment. Yogic philosophy and meditation have made me see a lot of things from a new perspective.

I have been atheist since I was in middle school. I still remember the moment I lost my faith, breaking down in tears while washing the dishes as the vast emptiness of the universe opened up to swallow me. I had never felt so truly alone before that moment of realization. I knew there would be no place for religion in my life from that point forward. Yet, yoga has opened me up to spirituality.

I think we all feel there is something that connects us to others and this world. There are certainly a lot of things we still don’t understand about life and death. And quite possibly never will. Still a skeptic at heart, I won’t pretend to know or make any bold claims. But I do like to let myself wonder.

I wonder what this life is. What awaits us at the end? What is the point? What IS this? I was pondering all of this while I drove the other day. I began to consider that perhaps we truly are all one. Perhaps we are each the same universe, the same grand existence, experiencing itself in different ways.

I have always struggled with the idea of death and dying. I don’t want to believe that I will die one day. It seems impossible to imagine not existing anymore. To grow old, and suffer, and disappear. Part of me hopes that I will continue existing somehow. It’s hard to even explain adequately.

There is a strange duality I feel when I consider all of existence as being one. In a sense, nothing can ever die. No one is ever alone. Yet at the same time we are always alone. There is only one. It is bizarre to feel my mind grasping at concepts it can’t quite comprehend.

All I know is that after experiencing LSD when I was younger, I realized that there is so much more to existence than what I am able perceive and understand. It brings that deep peace, that feeling of oneness. I hope that after death, there is something just as unexpected, as unimaginable waiting for us. So what do you think? What is this?