A-ha Ahimsa!

Ahimsa.001

The news in the last couple of weeks and months has really been disturbing, particularly related to unnecessary violence in our country and to our countrymen. Violence met with violence is an indication that we are mentally ill as a global community. There is a sickness happening to us, and I want to have a conversation to help us heal.

Let me digress for a moment: I’ve been motivated for some time to look at each of the yamas more closely and write about them. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, have a look at this complete list of the yamas. This will summarize the concept of yamas in yoga so I can focus on telling you about my experience of exploring them, which is a deep part of my yoga practice.) This week, I took a closer look at ahimsa, the practice of non-violence.

I don’t believe that it is possible for humans to change their violent ways overnight, or even in a single week. This kind of change takes time and dedication. I can only imagine that this is a life-long practice which may not ever be perfected. I aim to share my thoughts and revelations about ahimsa after creating intention and reflecting on how that shows up for me after seven days of concentrated awareness. As I explore the practice of ahimsa, I wonder how we humans might all be affected, and healed, by this simple practice. When I say practice, really the very first thing I mean to discover through the practice of ahimsa is simply awareness. I must be aware of when I am causing harm, in order to change that behavior.

Commonly, when referring to ahimsa, I immediately think of how to not hurt other beings. Many people practice ahimsa by becoming vegetarian or saving spiders and other bugs from their squishy deaths. I did encounter choices about what I ate this week that had me really ponder how I could live my life, every single day, without harming anyone or anything. It’s a tall order. As my mind considered ahimsa, every meal choice became a question of my practice and gave me room to think about where my food comes from and if I was perpetuating harm by my choice of food. I didn’t have any big a-ha moments in this context, and though I started out thinking about not harming animals, I ended up looking at how my food choices are harming me.

A-ha Ahimsa! Yeah, so we, as a culture, spend a lot of time looking at how we ought to be more peaceful towards others (or even more prevalent, how other people besides ourselves “should be” practicing non-violence, and spend time looking for an external source to be “fixed”, i.e. the police, the government, etc. Suffice it to say, it is always easier to see what someone else is doing wrong than how we, ourselves, may be at fault). I ask you, how often do we realize how violent we are to ourselves? 

I had an idea that I was pretty hard on myself, not just with bad food choices, but any number of other things. Cigarettes, alcohol, other substances that supposedly take the pain away…are these really helping ease some darkness inside me or am I just inflicting pain and sickness on myself? I realize that I was making choices about what I put in my body that not only deliberately made me sick, but also so I would be forced to slow down and be more gentle with myself. In essence, I was hurting myself so that I would have the opportunity to heal myself. Huh? Why would I do that to myself? I wouldn’t do that to a bug and that is the truth! As soon as this hit me I realized, ahimsa isn’t just about NOT DOING HARM, it is also about TAKING CARE and BRINGING JOY to myself and others.

It is so easy to beat ourselves up about making not-so-great choices or even deliberately harmful choices. Then the harming begets more harming as we tell ourselves how “bad” we are. It is literally a vicious cycle. I don’t know about you, but when I am down on myself about something, I go all the way down. I don’t care…and when I don’t care, I do harm.

Instead my practice of ahimsa could simply be that I forgive myself and have compassion for myself. I honor myself. I nurture myself. I treat myself to good food and plenty of rest and choose healthy, vibrant activities to encourage joy in my life. Instead of the mental beating on myself about my relapses, I could simply choose to go for a brisk walk or take a long, hot shower or go to bed early. I can drink extra water and move my body. Ahimsa is making room for all things joyful and allowing LOVE to FLOW unhindered, not just eliminating the harmful action. I don’t have to inflict harm on myself to deserve the compassionate treatment. I could easily just skip the beating and go straight to the pampering, ya dig?

I wonder if we all took a little time to really examine how we treat ourselves, and had some simple awareness that could spark a change when needed. And as we cultivate more love and compassion for ourselves, especially when we have dark and treacherous moments, then wouldn’t it be easier and just more natural to have love and compassion for our fellow humans? It seems we are so caught up in the duality of right and wrong, us vs. them, justice and injustice, blah, blah, blah that perhaps we can’t see that this constant chain of violence starts right in our very own minds. The minute I tell myself “I am such an idiot” or “I am so fat.” We kill little parts of our own psyche every hour. This slow death makes it easier to be desensitized to all the harm going on outside our comfort zone.

It is obvious that we need a big awakening to change the violent culture of school shootings, police brutality, racial injustice and riots in the streets. I think the small personal awakenings are the path to the BIG awakening that must occur. Ahimsa starts with me. Then the real stuff has room to happen. Changing who I am can change the whole world.

The Yoga Sutras say:

“As a Yogi becomes firmly grounded in non-injury (ahimsa), other people who come near will naturally lose any feelings of hostility.” (ahimsa pratishthayam tat vaira-tyagah)

Yoga Sutras – 2.35

Be Gentle.

Practice Compassion.

Peace begins with me.

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Gratitude

Gratitude.

It’s easy enough, right? I am an upper-middle class, white woman who has never had to worry about where my next meal will come from or if I’ll have shelter and warmth for my body during the night. I have always been surrounded by loving family and friends and have never felt unsafe in my own home. I have made it through 45 years without much concern about my means of income, paying my bills, or my ability to sustain my above average standard of living.

It’s more than that. I have always had a car. I have always been able to find work. I always have enough money, even when I don’t. I have unlimited support. I have so many people who care about me. I have many, many homes. I have beautiful and cherished friends who I can call when I am either sad and lonely or jumping for joy. I have both my parents still alive to provide advice and unconditional love, among many other gifts. I have a large network of friends, colleagues, travelers, artists, yogis and kindred spirits that I call family, though our connection isn’t blood, it’s love! I live in pure abundance and I want for nothing.

Except when I do…want for something.

I’m human, I guess. I find myself in my own internal battles (and sometimes not so internally) of wanting something more, something different, something better, something else. I have spent years of my life wishing I had SOME THING other than what I had and if only then, when that SOME THING that I have is more, different, better or else, will I be satisfied. Except, that’s not true. Then there is the more, different, better something else that I could have….Alas, the ego never wants to believe that what I have been given is exactly enough.

And when this happens, and I feel as though I’ll never have IT, whatever IT is, I wonder if I have any gratitude at all. Do I even know what it means to have gratitude?

I meditate and remind myself of all the blessings and abundance I was just born into. I tell myself that “I SHOULD BE GRATEFUL”, those words, stinging me down deep because, down deep, I know I have never had to suffer the winter without heat or summer without air conditioning and I likely never will. I don’t know what it means to be hungry. I’ll never really be alone, ever. I will always have a home. Shelter, food, survival…all a birthright for me.

Karmically, my spiritual tasks here are about something else this time. Clearly, the so-called suffering I experience in my mind is nothing like that of the majority of the world’s population. I take a moment, a full breath, to really let that sink in. For all the “something more, better, different, elses” out there that I think I WANT, I have the luxury of wanting vs. needing. I have the dharma that allows me to create a life by design rather than have to fight for my survival. I paint the picture of my daily reality with the highest quality brush and a limitless pallet, filled only with the brightest of colors. And what an incredibly beautiful creation of life I have made!

On this day of gratitude, I choose to really allow myself to feel, see, and honor that I have been offered a life free of needless suffering. I thank my higher self for being present enough to cut through my own bullshit and acknowledge the boundless, abundance that is mine in this lifetime. I submit that my ego take a back seat and just stop the constant wanting. I move in the direction of desire that arises out of the need to evolve on a more spiritual and positive energetic level, and free myself from trappings of the more, better, different, else. I embrace the ever-present NOW and revel in my gratitude for how perfect NOW and all that I have in NOW is. I let go of circuit-like thinking of that OTHER THING that keeps gratitude at bay. I honor a higher power and driving spiritual force that must be in play here. I humbly thank that force.

I bow my head in gratitude.

Namaste!

 

Letters from my higher self

Anna,

You are such a beautiful light to those around you. You are good enough–knowing you always have room to grow–right now, you are enough.

Take time to praise yourself and love yourself for all of the amazing things you have accomplished. Don’t get down on yourself when you fall short–we all do from time to time.

Remember your divinity and live your dharma. You have so much beauty and light to bring to the world while you are here. You live in abundance and divine timing.

I love you so much!

Anna

Mt. Shasta June 2013

Mt. Shasta June 2013

 

Peace begins with me

I have lots of stories and I have been struggling about which topic to write about first. Many of my followers will know my history and how this stage is set, though I already have new readers that don’t know anything about my influences. I have so many things to say about life what I am learning about myself, I wonder, should I start at the beginning? Maybe I could talk about my first attempt at pincha mayurasana or my Acro yogi teachers? Maybe I could talk about Portland’s quirkiness and Fred Armisen? Just as I was thinking it was difficult to make a conscious decision about what is most important to share today, it came to me—Peace!

As I was driving to a craft class last night, I heard the news on NPR. I listened to the man, who I gave hours of my time and energy to elect in 2008 so we could remove ourselves from an unnecessary war, talk about limited military strikes on the Syrian government. Then, I read last night about name-calling at the G20 summit. We need to talk about peace. Not just me, all of us. So this here new blog is really a conversation. I don’t want a political discussion; I am looking for something of a much higher vibration. I think it is a good time to start sending peaceful energy around the planet. And I think it is time our focus and energy live in a vibration of love and harmony.

I want to start by saying that what has been happening in Syria since the uprising in 2011 is atrocious. I first learned about the murders of activists, many of whom were children, from a friend last year who was heavily involved in the Occupy movement here in the U.S. The trouble in Syria has been on my heart for a year and I have struggled to know what it is that I can do.

And then I remember…Peace begins with me.

What do I mean by that? First of all, I do not believe more killing is the appropriate response or “punishment” for killing. Can we just stop killing? Secondly, I don’t really have a say in what happens about all the killing. I exercised my right to vote and this is what I get. Though, I am not personally doing the killing…this time; karmically speaking, I have done my share of killing and then some. I’ll tell you those stories another time. Suffice it to say, I am committed to practicing what we call in yoga, ahimsa, which means non-violence. I could write a whole post on that as well. And I will.

For now, I just want to examine an energetic attitude that we can all take in the spirit of what we CAN DO ABOUT IT, right now. I know, I know, we have Saturday stuff to do. Groceries, shopping, errands and family time, weekend drinks and BBQs and all manner of freedoms we so easily take for granted because, so far, our government isn’t using chemical weapons against us in our homes. But maybe just by taking some time to read this and think we can move into a daily spiritual practice involving peaceful action and reaction.

Have you ever left a situation or conversation and felt as though you could have chosen a more peaceful harmonious way to express your opinion or feelings? Have you ever felt like your emotional reactions took you over and made you say things, or maybe even do things, you never thought you would say or do? Have you ever felt anger or rage towards someone and chose to express it in a verbally or physically violent way? If you have (and I suspect all of us have to some degree as we are human) then you know what I mean when I say, peace begins with me.

I AM the only one I can control.

I AM in charge of my own reactions, peaceful or otherwise.

I AM an example of how peace moves through the world.

If I AM in a vibration of negativity, that permeates into the world and leaves an imprint of anti-peace.

I AM not my thoughts, emotions, or reactions, or even my physical body.

I AM spirit and, as such, I AM light and peace.

I can relate to our President in his name-calling tirade toward Putin as it is clear that he is frustrated, angry and vexed about what to do. Never mind government bullshit, he is human too.

Though the truth is, we always have a choice—a moment to choose our reaction—in peace. I like what my teacher, Myra Lewin, says about it. When confronted with anger or the temptation to react to situations negatively, imagine a rose out in front of your head between you and the other human who has you lit up. Focus your negative feelings into the rose and do your best to hold them there. This technique can help you channel what may be a normal human response (though an egoist one) into light and lift the urge to react from our lower self and project a higher, more peaceful vibration out into the universe. Don’t be discouraged about yourself if you don’t master this right away. This is a practice and it might not work the first time. Or the second or third. But eventually it will become easier and easier to channel light and peace. Just like a new asana (yoga pose), we may have to practice every day to get incremental improvement in our reactions. It doesn’t mean we are good or bad or that we have failed or succeeded, just that there is always further growth and work to be done.

Let me know what you think. What can YOU DO to be a warrior for peace?

Rainbows live in storm clouds. Find them

Rainbows live in storm clouds. Find them

 

P.S. I watched a documentary film last night called I AM.  If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely check it out. It’s on Netflix. No spoilers here, just my own thoughts on who I AM.

welcome to artlovemusicyoga

Hello fellow seekers, lovers, artists, yogis, friends and family. This is a brand-spankin’ new blog about the things I am most passionate about. I’ve been inspired to write one of these for a while and I am finally making it a priority in my life to start writing and sharing.

My inspiration for writing comes from you! Over the years, many of my friends and family have told me how they live vicariously through me. I do live a pretty interesting life. My sincerest wish in sharing my thoughts and experiences is to inspire, remind, laugh, open, and create a beautiful dialogue about the things I learn on my journey. Come here to find stories about art, love, music, yoga, peace, spirituality, health, food, travel, and positive personal transformation. Also, I am planning some amazing trips for this year and I want to document them here. I hope you will read my musings and feel warm, strong, creative and present.

I am embarking on another transformational adventure and I want you to come along for the ride. I don’t want to give too many spoilers so I’ll keep this short ‘n sweet for now. Just know that I intend to share myself authentically and humbly in the hopes that you’ll find some little spark that speaks to you. Maybe it will speak of taking risks or getting very honest with yourself. Maybe it will speak of setting goals and fulfilling dreams. I will always speak from my heart. So from my heart to yours, welcome!

"Did you ever grow anything in your garden of your mind?"  Mister Rogers Remixed

“Did you ever grow anything in your garden of your mind?”
Mister Rogers Remixed

Anna Amrita