Ahimsa or non violence is the first and most important of the Yamas – five restraints that make up the moral compass in the study of yoga. Nonviolence, sounds easy, right? Don’t murder, abuse, attack, or cause harm to another person. I got that one DOWN. I’m GOOD. Next, please.
But what about nonviolence with regards to ourselves? A little more subtle. See, we are VERY good at being violent with ourselves, often in sneaky ways.
The other day I was doing dishes and I was running through a scenario in my head with someone in my life, where I felt like I was being treated unfairly. I was feeling completely taken advantage of. I was actually COMING UP with new ways that this person would PROBABLY take advantage of me next! And I was feeling more and more frustrated, anxious, and resentful. Mind you…this was all going on in my head! I was aware of it, and I even tried using mantras to create a feeling of safety and security in my life, but my thoughts kept going back to this place of unfairness and defensiveness.
I also know that I’ve both dealt out, and been the recipient of, one of those outbursts….The ones where you just explode and start listing every single thing you have ever done for the other person and then start listing the ways they are not giving you the same effort, contributing the same financially, or treating you with the same kindness or affection. Or, maybe the outburst never makes it to the other person but it just replays over in your own head, causing yourself to spiral downwards with resentment and frustration and feelings of being taken advantage of. Feelings of being UNSAFE.
I heard the other day a quote by Eckhart Tolle: Whatever you think the world is withholding from you, you are withholding from the world.
I think it all starts at home…that is…within ourselves.
I think that when I most feel this way, it’s because I am the one that has really been taking advantage of myself. I’ve been pushing myself too hard, being mean to myself, not honoring my inner voice, not forgiving myself, and maybe, not giving myself enough to the world. Not acknowledging that I have great purpose, I have great gifts to share. Belittling myself. Making myself small. So that others can be big. This inner landscape causes anxiety that can manifest outward towards other people in my life. Side effects are also biting my cuticles and picking at my face! I’m literally, in every sense of the word, picking on myself!
And then finally, it’s like the inner part of me hits a point and says, I can’t take this anymore! But because I don’t realize that it’s ME who has been the worst perpetrator, I take it out on the next closest person!
And then I’m practicing violence not only against myself but also against my friends, family, loved ones, and co-workers.
I really loved this from Deborah Adele’s book the Yamas and Niyamas:
These stories show that how we treat ourselves is in truth how we treat those around us. If you are a taskmaster with yourself, others will feel your whip. If you are critical of yourself, others will feel your high expectations of themselves as well. If you are light hearted and forgiving with yourself, others will feel the ease and joy of being with you. If you find laughter and delight in yourself, others will be healed in your presence.
We would never purchase a can of red paint and expect it to be blue when we apply it to our walls. And yet we can be so harsh and demanding with ourselves and then expect to be loving with others. If just doesn’t work that way. The color of the paint inside the can is the color that whatever we paint becomes. The “color” of how we treat ourselves is the “color” of how we treat others. If we can’t be safe with ourselves, others can never be safe with us, and the world can never be a safe place to be.
I love this because it reminds me that the way I want to show up in other people’s lives is directly related to how I treat myself. I want to be a person who uplifts people and heals people, and helps them see the light within their own self. I want other people to know deep down how great they really are! This means that I must always reinforce to my own self how great I am, too. I must VALUE myself. I must be REVERENT for my life, my experience here on this planet, my soul, my body, my heart, and my connection to God, the Universe, and all that is.
This also means that I can better see that when someone else treats me critically, judges me harshly….this is just because they are constantly dealing with their own harsh inner critic, it really has nothing to do with me. If I can remember this, it helps me respond with compassion.
No one can actually ever hurt me, except myself. I am safe, I am immeasurably valuable, and I am SO loved.
Please know how much you are loved and how precious you are, how unique and how important to this world. You have great purpose here.
Namaste and all the love,