When faced with the harm that is done every day in this world, it can be overwhelming to consider. I know I often feel frustration, fear and sometimes dread. A member of our extended Unfold community lost two family members to this week's gun violence in Portland. His process in sharing this in classes has helped me see how even in the darkest situations, we can gradually regain our center through prioritizing what we do with our own minds, our own hearts, an our own actions.
Ahimsa is the first of the yama - the "restraints" of yoga's 8-limbed path, laid out in the Yoga Sutras. This ideal guides us to practice practice non-harming in thought, word and deed. By witnessing our thoughts and emotions, we first see what we're working with. We can notice what the go-to messaging or feelings are when we encounter hardship or loss. We all have ways of habitually responding to various situations or emotions. And our thoughts words and actions really do make a difference in what happens in the world.
When we consider how much mental illness and addiction there is among every community we belong to, we can start to have a picture of how our attitudes and thoughts can have an impact on ourselves and those around us.
Of course, this doesn't mean that we need just "be positive." But it does mean that we can actively practice not adding fuel to the fires. We can see when we're being judgemental toward ourselves and others. We can see when we're joining in ridicule of those whose beliefs or actions are different from ours. Yes, this is a version of harming. Even if the person never knows about it.
Many of the people who do the most harm, feel the most threatened, criticized, judged and feared. How are we personally contributing to that? We might think that some of these folks who are public figures will never feel the impact of our judgemental thoughts, or comments on social media. But ultimately, some people do feel it. Ultimately, it contributes to the major divisions in our society - divisions across political parties, across socio-economic lines of difference and across race, ability and gender lines.
So, our January challenge, is to see where this kind of "harming" comes up in our own minds and words and actions. When we see it, we can regard it with clarity, kindness, and practice finding new, small ways to show up for ourselves and others. So we might think of that quote by Margaret Mead about "a small group of committed citizens changing the world," and adapt it to our own internal processes...
Never doubt that one person's thoughts, words and deeds
can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
We hope that we'll join us for classes in January that help us observe our thoughts and practice ahimsa. This can be done in movement classes, or any of our dedicated meditation classes. Yoga nidra is an accessible meditation style, done lying down. It's led by Jill McBurney Tuesdays. We also have Meditation / Contemplation with Neera Malhotra. This class is more workshop style and includes some journaling, as well as guided meditation. And Leigh Drake's Friday meditation technique classes are offered once a month - this month she helps us explore how we can use our wounding and our pain as a doorway to connection with the forces of life.