Ahimsa: What Are You Choosing, Compassion or Harm? 

In Patanjali’s Eight-Limbed Path, there are the Yamas. The Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The first Yama limb of the Eight Limb Path is Ahimsa (non-harming or non-violence). Ahimsa focuses on one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity. This Yama emboldens you to examine your behavior, speech, actions and generally how you conduct yourself within your daily life. 

This Yama is perhaps the most famous one, for Ahimsa refers not only to physical violence but also to the violence of our words or thoughts towards each other and ourselves. Seeing as words and thoughts are two powerful tools of energy, what we think about ourselves or others can be as powerful as any physical attempt to harm. To practice Ahimsa is to be constantly vigilant, to observe ourselves in our interactions with others and ourselves. It is to observe our inner-dialogue (thought patterns), outer-dialogue (reacting rather than responding to situations), what kind of energy our intentions have, and deeply seeded beliefs systems. 

For example, how do you speak to yourself when something doesn't go as planned, or when you mess up? Do you quickly revert to telling yourself: "I can never do anything right!" or, "Why do these things only happen to me?" This is harmful speech coming from you and directed at you. Instead, you can tell yourself: "I am human and making mistakes is a huge contributor to my growth" or, "My imperfections are perfect as they teach me who I am and what I can work on." Similar to any other practice, Ahimsa (non-harming) begins with the Self and then extends to others. 

Create the practice of being mindful of where your thoughts, actions, intentions, and beliefs are coming from. Make the time for introspection and ask yourself: am I living from a place of compassion or harm?