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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ahimsa ~ Do No Harm

The cardinal rule in my house is Ahimsa.  I borrow this beautiful tenet of Yoga as a tool to help teach my kids compassion.  My children all know that when mommy says, “Ahimsa” that I’m reminding them to do no harm to themselves, each other and the world around them.  I always make it a point to define the word every time I speak it.
Several months into introducing this wonderful word, we were sitting at the dinner table and it comes up.  “Ahimsa,” I proclaim trying to practice it myself even as I say it.  There is silence.  Then a tiny voice (that of my four year old) tentatively chimes in with, “What does harm mean?”
All this time I was distracted by thinking they needed to know the “big” word and neglected to meet them where they were.  “Harm” seemed like such a harmless word, one that in its abbreviated nature seemed universal.  
It was a simple moment filled with awareness and a drop of profundity.
Life can sometimes be assembled by these types of assumptions.  What trips me up, at times, is when one’s habitual patterns that typically inform a certain outcome, take me by surprise.  This usually happens when that person hits his or her internal “refresh button” and breaks the habit.  When that moment of “waking up” and acting in a present, mindful way is responded to in kind, a symbiotic exchange is created and life is being fully lived.
When I was a student of mediation at the Shambhala Center (I say was, because it’s been many years since I walked through their doors or have had a disciplined sitting meditation practice), I remember one of the primary lessons was that of breaking through our cocoon of habitual patterns.  I find the lessons I learned there pop up in every day scenarios on a regular basis.
Since I’ve found my way back to my mat following more than three months of absence (due to surgical healing), I am confronted with this notion of meeting myself where I am and practicing Ahimsa along the way.  
Always mindful of living in a beginner’s mind (without getting stuck there), I find myself now living in a beginner’s body.  This beginner’s body, however, is sort of the grown-up version of its former self.  
In my first days of practicing Yoga, every experience on the mat was filled with curiosity of the unknown.  The language, poses, philosophies and less than tangible energy that passed between & among the various participants (teachers & students alike) landed on me as I began to integrate them into my pool of understanding.  While my curiosity is still regularly peaked and my general understanding is still journeying toward clarity, I now have a foundation of experience that has created some land marks.
While my body is reacquainting itself with the motion of the practice, the physical memory is still vibrating underneath old habits.  It is my challenge to honor this new state of mind and being.  Now, my cardinal rule is Ahimsa.  I’m not distracted by lofty goals of perfect poses, but am hearing the smaller instruction of modifications and using them as the stepping stones.  I will do no harm to myself, others or the world around me.
Ahimsa:  Do no harm.
Harm:  Hurt

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