Ahimsa: Staying Centered In Non-Violence

  1. What about real pain?
  2. Different kinds of pain
  3. Example of mind-made pain
  4. Story about George Saylor and the Apes
  5. Sutra 11.35: ahimsapratisthayam tatsannidhau vairatyagah
  6. Ghandi
  7. Experience it
  8. Yoga Sequence for being centered

What about real pain?

Last week I was teaching about Satya, which means “truth” in Sanskrit. I paired the teaching of truth in the yoga sutras of Patanjali with the Buddhist teaching that all suffering comes from believing in something that is NOT true. That all pain comes from misperceiving or resisting reality.  A dear friend and student told me that she wasn’t sure that she believed in that, she said, “What about the pain of someone you love dieing or when you get injured? That’s real.”

Two Kinds of Pain:

  1. Pain from reality
  2. Pain from suffering

There are two kinds of pain. There is real pain that is based in reality, like the pain from an injury or from losing someone you love.  This kind of pain can bring us more present and more into the moment than ever. The pain of suffering comes from the mind and it is pain that is not based in reality.

For example: 
Say you feel sad and the mind doesn’t like it that you feel sad so the mind says: “Don’t be sad because if you are sad then no one will like you and you will be alone!”  How many of us shut off sadness because we believe that people don’t like sad people or that we will be judged if we are sad?   This shutting down of sadness comes from a fear of rejection, which stems from a belief that rejection means that we will be cut off from love. It is ultimately a fear of being separate which is one of the mind-made illusions that causes a lot of suffering.   Is it true that sadness means that we will be alone? Is it ABSOLUTELY TRUE?  In many cases sadness brings people together, that willingness to be vulnerable actually creates an opening, a gateway for connection. Letting people help us when we are down is a willingness to take a risk and open up. For many of us who have trouble trusting, this risk can unfold into our first experience of trust and form a deep bond that will last a lifetime… very much the opposite of being alone.  It means not rejecting ourselves and looking in with compassion and understanding.

Tara Brach, who is a meditation teacher and psychologist shared a story about a man named George Saylor who was a biologist that studied Apes.  He was able to get really intimate details about their lives, their family dynamics, their relationships, their challenges and more.  He wrote about his findings and when he returned people were incredulous, they said, “How did you get all these details?! Why were you able to get these intimate details about their lives and no one before you was able to?!”  George said, “Because I didn’t bring a gun.”

All the previous people who had gone to study the creatures brought a gun with them and the apes somehow sensed this and were unwilling to open up and share and relax with them in the way that they did with George. They somehow sensed underneath it all that they could trust George.

It’s the same with ourselves, when something is challenging, do we go in with a “gun?” Do we go in with judgment, shame, and blame? Do we hurl insults at ourselves and disconnect with the world for fear that we are bad? Or do we go in with a curiosity? Do we go in with understanding and compassion?

Sutra 11.35
ahimsapratisthayam tatsannidhau vairatyagah

“When non-violence in speech, thought, and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.”

B.K.S. Iyengar writes:
When the yogi has thoroughly understood the nature of violence, he is established in non-violence. Peace in words, thoughts, and deeds, whether awake or dreaming, is a sign of goodwill and love towards all.

In the vicinity of a yogi, men and animals who are otherwise violent and antipathetic  towards each other, abandon their hostility and exhibit friendliness and mutual tolerance.

What’s powerful about this: 
What I find really powerful about this is that others actually ABANDON their hostility and exhibit friendliness, that it’s CONTAGIOUS!

Ghandi followed two of the yogic principles, Satya and Ahimsa.  His commitment to these two principles changed the world forever.   ” When you look at the change that can occur, you can see one person inspiring thousands, tens of thousands.  One person, Ghandi, with a single vision kicked the most powerful nation in the world out of India, actually convinced them to leave.  Violence couldn’t have done that. “You’re rotten, you shouldn’t be here” wouldn’t have done it. The British would still be there.  But there is such power in seeing this Truth. Activity flowing from truth has such potential.” – Adyashanti

So where do we start?:
It all begins with ourselves.  We need to have the ability to see reality, to see the truth of what is happening.  So we begin with noticing the present moment.

Try this:
“What is, is what’s happening before you have a though about it.  Notice the difference between what your mind things about this moment, and this moment as it is before you have a thought about it….. Experience this moment free of your mind’s interpretations of it.” – Adyashanti

Yoga Sequence:
This yoga sequence is:

  1. physically challenging
  2. has balance work
  3. Has core- strengthening work

Why be physically challenging?
It is physically challenging to give us the opportunity to watch how our mind reacts to challenge.  When things are hard, do we get down on ourselves, telling ourselves that we are not good enough or do we work with curiosity, looking for ways to create new neuro-pathways and trying new things with an openness and love for learning? If we get down on ourselves, do we judge ourselves for getting down on ourselves?  Can we look at that with curiosity and wonder why we are doing that? What story do we tell ourselves when we have a hard time doing something?

Why do balance work?
It has balance work, because it can be so hard to stay centered, especially when people come at us with all sorts of things like judgment, criticism, negative feedback, blame, and negative beliefs about the world.  How do we stay centered in reality, in what we know as truth with all this coming towards us?  Try to maintain your center and notice if thoughts or movements of your eyes, other people or things like cars driving by cause you to waiver.  How can you stay centered no matter what comes through? When you lose your center and fall over, what kind of thoughts do you have about yourself? Any judgement? B.K.S. Iyengar says, “when the mind waivers the body waivers and when the body waivers, the mind waivers.”

Why do core work?
It has core work because core work is literally working the center of the body and it brings you to your center.  It often brings about a deep sense of grounded-ness, power, and stillness.

  1. Sun Salutation A
  2. Sun Salutation B (Instead of stepping back after warrior 1, place your hands down and hop into chaturanga)
  3. Sun Salutation A Done in the Iyengar tradition: (Tadasana –>Urdhva Hastasana –> Uttanasana –> Extended Uttanasana –> JUMP down Dog –> Jump up dog –> Jump Chaturanga –> Jump Up-Dog –> Jump Down dog–> Jump Forward –> Extended Uttanasana –> Full Uttanasana –> Urdhva Hastasana –> Tadasana)
  4. Sun Salutation C (Hopping into Chaturanga as before)
  5. Handstand –> Pincha Mayurasana –> Uttanasana interlacing hands behind your back and folding forward
  6. Handstand –>Pike Downward (Land two straight legs between your hands)
  7. Pincha Mayurasana –>Pike Downward (Land two straight legs between your hands)
  8. Balance Flow- Link each posture into the next: Vrksasana (tree pose) –> Extend foot forward into Utthitah Hasta Padangusthasana 1–>swing leg out to side into Utthitah Hasta Padangusthasana 2 –> swing leg back into Utthitah Hasta Padangusthasana 1, release hold of foot and keep foot up in the air for 5 breaths –> Swing the leg back behind you and place your hands on the floor for the standing splits–> Warrior 3 –> Float back to Warrior 1, repeat on other side.
  9. Halasana Paschimotanasan Rolls
  10. Navasana
  11. Insert Navasana into Halasana Paschimottanasana Rolls
  12. Urdhva Prassaritta Padasana
  13. Core Sequence: Utkatasana –>with each exhalation sink lower until you are hovering your buttocks 2 inches off floor and keep the arms straight up–> extremely slowly lower your sitting bones to the earth and simultaneously extend the legs up into Navasana –> lower into Ardha Navasana–> lay back and hold your feet in baddakonasana –> tuck your shins underneath your armpits like Bakasana (crow pose) and round your spine so much only one vertebra is touching the ground, reach your arms into the air as far as possible, holding an upside-down crow pose–> swing the legs back into Halasana and hold the toes–> Holding the toes, rock up to Navasana –> release toes and hold Navasana–>Rock forward to your feet without using your hands on the earth, land in a squat–> take arms under and come into Malasana –> Up into Bakasana (crow pose)–> Jump Back from Crow to Chaturanga.  Repeat until you feel smooth at this or until your tuckered out 🙂
  14. Bridge Pose (Supported)
  15. Jathara
  16. Savasana