Santosha to Ahimsa!

Life is such an incredible, crazy journey. I enjoy the intensity it brings at times - the spaces of calm and challenge along the way. I have been on a mission to be more patient and accepting of myself and others, which has been paying off.  

Being an avid practitioner these past few months of “Santosha”, meaning contentment, my mind often ponders the fact that we are all so beautiful and perfect, regardless of our imperfections and challenges. We are incredible creatures, capable of so much love, filled with creative genius. I am eternally grateful for my teachers who have helped me down my yogic and meditation path.  

Layering on top of Santosha (the practice of acceptance and contentment), today I want to touch on one of the Yamas - the practice of Ahimsa, which means non-harming.

The yamas and niyamas are yoga’s ethical guidelines laid out in the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eightfold path. They’re like a map written to guide you on your life’s journey. Simply put, the yamas are things not to do, or restraints, while the niyamas are things to do, or observances. Together, they form a moral code of conduct.

Ahimsa: nonviolence

I will never forget the day my teacher Ana asked us, “How are you self-mutilating?” She is a warrior of a teacher and does not mince her words. I found my time studying with her to be intense, conflicting and often confronting. To this day, I am grateful to her for being such a courageous teacher who cared enough about her students to raise the difficult issues that many yoga teachers avoid.

My mind felt resistant and a lot of emotions came up as I wrote in my journal the ways I self-harm. Yikes, Ana.

Since childhood I have had this habit of biting my cuticles when I am under stress or pressure. This is very personal, what I am sharing and to this day I notice this old habit creeping back when I am feeling afraid, over excited or stressed. When I notice myself doing this, it sends me a signal that I need to check myself to see why it is happening.

I am often challenged by habits pertaining to my body so as I focus more attention on Ahimsa, I am looking to see how I can love and treat my body a little better. Baby steps are great and I am okay with going slow. It is just a process and processes can take time.

I am aware of a few other habits that I have been unsuccessful in squashing lately, and am gently asking myself why. Just being aware can lead to greater self-understanding, which is helpful. Higher consciousness in these areas will come in due time.

Today, I am doing my best to go slow and stay calm. By not taking on too much, by allowing myself to experience my natural state of being moment to moment, with awareness and acceptance (Santosha), even when I feel I could or should be doing better. It has been interesting working this Niyama so intently and this particular practice has set the stage, I feel, for taking me now back to the practice of Ahimsa. Let’s be as patient and understanding towards self and others as we can be as we all learn along the way.

Wishing you peace. Happy Ahimsa practicing.