Hello and welcome everyone. Thank you for sharing your time here with us today.
The reason we have gathered here today is to pay respect to the International Day of Non-Violence. This is marked on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence in this modern age.
According to the UN, who established the day, it is an occasion to "disseminate the message of non-violence, including through education and public awareness".
This is of particular importance in current times, with all of the pain and suffering, injustice and intolerance we see around us in so many parts of the world. Violence and a disruption of peace happens in many forms and on many levels – it happens within us when we are at odds with ourselves, around us when we are at odds with others, and on a mass level when society is at odds with nature, and groups are at odds with other groups.
So what can we do as yogi’s to play our part in making a difference today and everyday? This is where the yogic concept of ahmisa, comes into play and has never been more important. Ahimsa is a foundational concept and practice of the eight limbed Ashtanga Yoga philosophy and is a Sanskrit word that is loosely defined as ‘kindness to the self’, or sensitivity, vulnerability, non violence.
Parahmans Swami Maheswarananda (founder of Yoga in Daily Life) explains ahimsa as meaning 'not to cause pain or harm to any living being by thought, word or deed. Non-violence also means not to kill.' You can read more from his book here.
It proposes that non-violence applies at all levels – within us it applies to our self–talk, our inner dialogue and the extent to which we are harsh and critical. Externally it applies to our relationships with others, our acceptance of others and our ability to co-operate and be flexible with all of the differences that weave into the fabric of humanity. At a group level it is the extent to which these very concepts are reflected at a broader level. They start with you, within you.
So lets look at how we can start to build this into our lives, starting with the insides, moving to the outsides.
Violence doesn't necessarily have to be overt and physical – there is a subtle form of violence expressed internally when we are are harsh and critical with ourselves. This impacts our sense of well-being and wellness. It affects our stress levels and mood. It impacts how we interact with others, and so on from there. Peace starts from within.
Quite often we over look this part of wellness and stress management - the importance of a healthy inner dialogue.
As we said, “Ahimsa”, is loosely defined as ‘kindness to the self’, or sensitivity, vulnerability, non violence. When you are kind to yourself there is no destructive criticism. Mistakes happen, procrastination happens, slip ups happen. The practice of Ahimsa for ourselves protects our wellness in that we can be disciplined but kind. We make the effort to do things right but also know that not every day is going to be perfect... and that’s ok. When you are kind to yourself, you act from a place of peace and happiness, a place of inspiration, rather than from a place of being forced to do something, which is when it becomes a chore and at times creates stress.
Have you heard of the apple experiment? See this photo ...
this was an experiment conducted by Danielle De Laporte, and many others, where two halves of an apple are placed separately in air tight jars. Every day positive phrases were repeated to the half apple in one jar and negative phrases to the other. In about 2 - 3 weeks they had a look at each. And this is roughly what you get. Positive appraisal of the self makes a big difference to well-being. You may also wish to look at Dr Masaru Emoto’s research on water and resonance for another example of this.
Keeping this lesson in mind, we can also move our practice of non-violence toward others – mindfully shifting the way we view others and their strengths and weaknesses, embracing our differences and most importantly accepting that we do not necessarily have to have automatically good intentions. In and amongst our wanting to be good and kind there will be jealousy, anger, selfishness. However, we can choose to assess these intentions and action the good ones – ones that lead to good outcomes for all. We can then also introspectively observe the undesirable ones to determine where and why they come up. That’s a another topic altogether that can be explored through self enquiry meditation.
But for now a good way to practice sharing good energy is by committing to something like a regular yoga and meditation practice for yourself; a sankalpa to set intentions and dedicate your good energy towards someone or someplace that needs it; healing meditations to ‘go to’ that place and heal yourself or others. These are subliminal acts but through continuous practice they become habits, values and ultimately become your little way of changing the world.
We will wrap up with a quote from Mahatma Ghandi himself:
“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny”
Start with the little things – the little thoughts, the little intentions and the little actions and then you can step back and start to see the positive changes they make to your life, your relationships and the world.
by Niveen & Gita
Inspired by the work of Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda
and the Sri Swami Madhavananda World Peace Council