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Mary E. Vandenack: ahimsa • non-violence

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Every year, I set goals and devise strategies to help myself accomplish my goals. Historically, my goals were somewhat traditional in that they were, physical fitness achievements or financial achievements. In recent years, my goals have determined how I’ve set my objectives with regard to my yoga teacher training. Rather than trying to achieve a certain weight or a certain number of dollars in the bank, my goals have become about how I related with others and how I spend my time.

The yamas and niyamas are the guiding principles for yoga. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali identified five yamas (restraints) and five niyamas (observances). The yamas and niyamas are a form of moral imperative.

The yamas and niyamas are relatively simple concepts. The yamas include non-violence (love), truthfulness, non-stealing, moderation and non-possessiveness. The niyamas include cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study and devotion to a higher power.

The yama that I have chosen to focus on for in recent months is that that of ahimsa, non-violence. The practice of ahimsa develops love. Ahimsa is pure, cosmic love. It involves developing an attitude in which hatred is replaced by love. Ahimsa is forgiveness and it is true strength. I am finding the path of truly achieving ahimsa, a challenging but rewarding path. The most significant change that I am finding as I pursue ahimsa is an improvement in relationships of all kinds.

Earlier this year, while flying home,
I picked up a magazine from the seat pocket in front of me. The article I read suggested that we change our goals away from such goals as “How I can be better heard” to “How I can be a better participant in relationships.” The article suggested asking your spouse how you can be a better spouse, asking your employees how you can be a better boss, asking your children how you can be a better parent and asking your parent how you can be a better child.

Admittedly, I found the thought of posing that question to friends, family and co-workers downright frightening. I came up with a less comprehensive approach than that suggested in the article. I chose a couple key relationships and asked, “If I were to do one thing that would improve our relationship, what would that be?”

By asking for one suggestion, the person being asked usually gave it some thought, rather than giving me a laundry list, and gave me one thing in a sincere way. I can work on one change in my behaviour rather easily and I find myself willing to do so. If I were given a long laundry list, I would likely make no effort and possibly give in to the sense of “nothing I do will ever be enough.” Surprisingly, the suggestions were not as difficult as I thought they might be. Usually, the person I approached reciprocated by asking the same question in return. Asking the question opened communication. Mutual effort has improved relationships.

The only person that matters
in this moment is the one you are with. The only moment that matters is now. Your future will be shaped by how you handle this moment in relation to the person you are with, even if you are simply with you.

Consider who you hang out with. Are they friends or are they simply acquaintances? Are they people who have seen your dark side and love you anyway, or are they people who will jump ship if you lose your job or your spouse? Are they people who reciprocate affection and attention?

Are you spending time with those who are available and really care about you, or are you spending energy pursuing those who are unavailable for whatever reason? When you are with one person, are you thinking about someone else? Focus on those who are available and those who are present. Life is truly very short.

A friend of mine is fairly new on a path of recovery
from an addiction. One of my friends’ insights this year was to spend more time really listening and acknowledging what other people say. This seems patently obvious but it is amazing how rarely people really listen. My friend noted, “I only listened long enough to figure out what I wanted to say next. When I started to listen and acknowledge, I had real conversations.”

A few days before writing this article
, I stopped at a Starbucks that I frequent regularly. For the four years I have been stopping there, my drink is ready and perfect when I walk in. Almost all of the baristas know me by name. On the particular day I am mentioning here, the day was a holiday. The crew was double the usual size to serve the expected crowd.

Despite the double crew, there was a line. Rather than waiting patiently on a busy day, one woman angrily berated the baristas, sought out the manager to complain and wrote a nasty comment card. One of the baristas was nearly in tears. I went over to the manager and made a point of letting him know how fabulous the service is there on a daily basis and how unfortunate that someone would complain on that particularly busy day.

There are many people along our path each day who are making our day possible. Notice those who do. Say thank you more often. If the coffee isn’t quite right one day, leave a larger than usual tip knowing that those are the days the tip is most needed.

I am finishing this article shortly after the recent tragedy at Millard South. My family and many others were dramatically impacted by the events of January 5th. In the weeks since the shooting, I have learned of many incidents of violence in our schools and among our children. Previously, I knew it was out there but I hadn’t been deeply touched by it. I now have and am dedicating a portion of my life to supporting the teaching of peaceful resolution of issues to our children.

All of our actions and words are always teachers. When we engage in road rage or we are rude to a stranger, we are teaching and modelling violence. When we help someone who needs it or encourage someone who is struggling, we teach kindness. The one thing I am sure of is the deep need for love, kindness and compassion.

Ahimsa, the practice of refraining from causing pain to others is a powerful force. Its practice develops love.

-end- metroMAGAZINE





Apr 5, 2011 09:37 am
 Posted by  marykliv

You definitely exemplify what you are talking about!
I admire you and thank you for your help to my former co-workers at the Bucks!!
Soy Green Tea Latte? Correct??

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