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Ahimsa toward self

I did the funnest thing last week—I recognized that I didn’t feel like writing a post for this blog…and so I didn’t! Such a simple solution to the pressure I was feeling, such a wonderful rush of relief when I set myself free.

One of ancient yoga’s basic tenets, the first yama (which I’ve mentioned before), is “ahimsa,” the Sanskrit word for nonviolence. It’s often interpreted as “do no harm,” and I’ve gotten pretty good about applying the concept outwardly. Will an action of mine hurt someone else? If so, perhaps I should reconsider.

But turning that consideration inward has taken longer—the mind can be so mean and tricky, is so clever with resistance! Nonetheless, I’m getting there. Recently I bemoaned a lack of creativity to a colleague: I really wanted to produce some writing, and I even had a great idea, but the words just weren’t flowing. I felt frustrated and was giving up with a disparaging email and a scowl. But her response made me smile: “That can be one of the most challenging lessons for me,” she confessed. “Ahimsa toward self!”

Do not harm myself! What an obvious concept, but one I have so often ignored. It’s great to think about how my actions impact others, crucial even. But it’s no less vital to care for my own feelings and needs, even the ones that are easy to override. How many times have I pushed myself in the name of discipline or obligation without pausing to examine what was truly necessary or in my best interest?

Sure, sometimes it’s in my best interest to do things I don’t want to do, but sometimes it really just doesn’t matter. A few weeks ago I knew this objectively but pushed myself anyway. Last week I let go.

And not because I couldn’t think of a topic: A friend of mine led a class I took, and because I knew her and (I thought) I knew the sequence she was teaching, I was partially on autopilot. As a result, I sank into a front-facing savasana to avoid some push-ups I was anticipating, but when she moved right on to a different pose altogether, I realized I’d given up on a challenge that was never even presented.

It was ideal blog fodder, but when it came time to move from jotted notes to a rough draft, I just wasn’t feeling it. I was preoccupied with other commitments (one being my new status as a contributor to the Om Schooled Teachers’ Lounge), and pretty soon the post felt more like a chore than a privilege.

It was then that my friend’s words, “ahimsa toward self!” echoed in my memory, and something wildly, appealingly reckless crossed my mind: What if I just. didn’t. post?!?!

The joy that prospect brought signaled it was the right choice for me, so, I didn’t write, and it felt great. So great that I might just do it again–anytime I feel like it, in fact. Hopefully I won’t wax extreme and stop posting altogether, but I’ll just have to see what happens, no harm done.


  1. In the meantime « This Is Where the Healing Begins - January 12, 2012

    […] As you may or may not have noticed, I have been taking full advantage of last month’s decision not to pressure myself into writing anything. […]

Love > fear