Ahimsa: Practising Non-Violence through Yoga
Yogic practice extends far beyond breathwork and asanas. Jenny Light discusses some of the more subtle changes our bodies undergo when we invite spiritual qualities into our lives, and offers a meditation to embrace non-violence taken from her new book.
This feature includes extracts from Divine Meditations: 26 Spiritual Qualities of the Bhagavad Gita, which have been reproduced with permission.
Yoga unites our inner and outer experience and impacts on how we live our lives. Yoga creates alchemical change, allowing us to live more spiritually and less selfishly. Qualities like ahimsa – defined by the great master of non-violence Mahatma Gandhi as the “avoidance of harm to any living creature in thought or deed” – begin naturally to arise from within with diligent practice.
Through schooling our minds to sit in deep meditation we start embodying more spiritual qualities, such as compassion, purity, lack of pride – and ahimsa. The Bhagavad Gita (16:1-3) lists 26 God-like qualities which are the direct result of closing the doors of the external senses, and moving within through meditation. On a path of ahimsa, not just every act but every word and thought is self-monitored as to whether it could actively or potentially cause harm to self or others.
Divine Meditations: 26 Spiritual Qualities of the Bhagavad Gita is a spiritual workbook bringing together the yogic practices of pranayama, mantra, prayer, dhyana (concentration) and dharana (meditation) for each of these God-like qualities. Ahimsa is illustrated with the following story:
There was once a wandering Buddhist monk who had very few possessions, relying on his faith in God to provide for all his needs. Being very pure and holy, he lived a life of non-violence and was well-respected by villagers on his travels. One day, he arrived at a village which was being terrorised by infamous bandits. As the raiding hoard came riding into the village, the people hid and cowered in fear. The monk remained where he was in the centre of the street, as the fearsome war-chief approached brandishing his sword.
‘Get out of my way’, bellowed the war chief, with blazing eyes.’ Don’t you know who I am? I could run you through with this sword!’
Unperturbed by this show of violence, the wise man calmly replied, ‘Don’t you know who I am? I could let you.’
Conscience is the inner voice of knowing the right path to take. It’s not up to anyone else to do the right thing: that task is down to you. Whatever you find yourself facing in life, the challenge is to have the courage to take not the path of least resistance, but the path of non-violence.
Is there something you’re avoiding, even though you know it’s the right thing to do? Explore your motivations for resisting acting from conscience. Do you recognise that avoidance of this obstacle is a common pattern?
Do you harbour any ill will in thought towards others? Make a commitment to avoid gossiping and harbouring malicious thoughts towards others. Can you recall any incidents when you succumbed to gossiping? Did it make you feel powerful, or did it leave a nasty taste in your mouth? True power comes when we have the strength of character resist harmful words erupting from our lips and instead remain in silence, rather than polluting the ethers with poisonous vibrations.
Do you mentally beat yourself up? Thinking destructively places a barrier between you and your inner connection with God. Ahimsa sets the balance right , building a bridge of inner connection at the level of the soul. We remember to be kinder, more compassionate and not violent to our self. Once we stop the inner fight, we start to realise our place in Unity. Ahimsa builds that bridge.
The following meditation, taken from from Divine Meditations, amplifies the quality of ahimsa as a new paradigm for all beings living on this planet.
MEDITATION FOR NON-VIOLENCE
Connect with the Earth by grounding down to the golden light in the centre of the planet via roots from the tailbone.
Maintaining a steady focus on the inhale and exhale, from the vantage of the middle of the head, start to bring awareness into the energetic spine as a hollow tube of white light. You may be aware of prana or life force moving in the spine with the breath.
Breathing in: prana moves upward in the spinal column.
Breathing out: prana moves down to the base of the spine.
Visualise the seeds of the chakras as vibrating colours in the shaft of the spine.
Know that your seat of consciousness can travel up or down the spine, just like travelling in an elevator.
Visualise travelling through the shaft of light into the base chakra, where the shaft continues down into the heart of the Earth.
Focus on the four petals of the base chakra and visualise them rotating upward in the spine.
Visualise rising through the column of light into the centre of the head. Gaze calmly towards the brow chakra which has two cool petals. Take your breath into softening these petals, left and right.
Be aware of the column of connection between the base and crown chakras. Focus on the breath moving prana: up on the inhale; down on the exhale.
Focus on the heart chakra in the centre of the column of light. Keep focusing on the breath practice for several minutes as if you are breathing through a soft, all-loving heart.
Continue this practice until the power of love in the heart for the Divine and all beings everywhere builds. You may experience the heart chakra rotating 90° to face upward in the spine, beaming love and compassion into the petals of the crown.
Let your awareness sit within the lotus of the crown. Become so bright that the light spills in rays from your head. Continue the breath focus and intensify this breath on breath.
Visualise the crystalline grid structure around the Earth as lines of light in the atmosphere. Use the out breath to beam your heart love and well-being through this grid.
Charge and heal the Crystalline Earth Grid by shining ahimsa to all from your golden heart.
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