When it comes to this old thing called Yoga, the learning fun never stops. Recently, I’ve been studying the Yamas and Niyamas – which are broadly speaking, descriptions of how we should live when we are living in union with our true self, all beings, the universe and all its layers or…”Yoga”.
The Yamas and Niyamas make up the first two rungs of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. Patanjali was the Godfather of Yoga – he took the classical spiritual texts and interpreted them to create a helpful guide if you will of the path to true enlightenment. It’s a pretty epic read and one that I’ve just embarked on so that’s what will be adding to my backpack shoulder strain the next few months. Thank you P-Dog.
Even though the 8 steps were created way back in 400bc, there’s a lot we can look to integrate these into our lives right this very day.
The first Yama is Ahimsa which in its simplest form means “non-harming”. Usually translated as nonviolence – it’s about extending compassion to all living creatures, and accepting we are all somehow connected in the universe. It’s the basis of all living – and the classic saying your Mum used to bend your ears about – treat others how you would like to treated.
As the main man Gandhi put it – “True Ahimsa should mean a complete freedom from ill-will and anger and hate and an overflowing love for all.”
I have a somewhat comedy relationship with Ahimsa. Almost as soon as a negative thought about something or someone enters my consciousness I’m instantly punished. It’s something of a running joke with my other half. “Instant Karma” we like to call it. Take the piss out of his debatable fashion choice that day…and I’ll instantly trip over. Secretly eye roll about something someone has said at work…spill sauce all over my white top. Gossip about something someone has told me…receive a worrying letter from HMRC.
I’m convinced its the universes way of telling me not to be an arsehole.
I’m not going to lie..leading an ahimsic lifestyle in this modern age of social media, FOMO, and Love Island is no mean feat – but then when my Sky Box missed recording last nights episode it got me thinking…The universe is a magnificent thing, so putting goodness out there into it, can only serve to make our experiences of life happier.
So I’m having a compassion re-boot. These are some of the things I’m implementing.
- Veggie – there’s only one thing for it. In Yoga it’s believed that when you eat meat you take on the negativity of an animals pain of death when it’s eaten. And as there’s more investigation into animal welfare, hormones affecting humans, and the effect on the planet – these are things to really noodle over. I was veggie as a kid for 10+ years and options are so much more varied now so hopefully its an easier step. I’ve tried for a while now to be a Pescatarian, but for a lifelong fish-phobe this is somewhat complicated so it looks like veggie it is.
- Minimising the mind-shit-stiring – there are so many distractions and easy ways to fill our brains and lives with rubbish. One way to be compassionate to ourselves is to avoid perpetuating it. So that means no Column of Shame consumption (who are most of those people anyway?), chilling out on the Instagram scrolling (repetitive strain injury anyone? Just me then!), relaxing on the he said / she said / can you believe it. These are some of my favourite things so this ain’t gonna come easy, but I shall look to fill my mind more with enriching, enhancing materials instead. Like that gigantic book.
- Scheduling downtime – As you probably know by now, I’ve got ants in my pants (translation = busy) and I have been known to view spare time / relaxing time as a / waste of time. It’s taken me a long time to get to this, but yes – I do appreciate the value for the mind, body and soul to allow myself to slow down, and that actually there is still magic in those quiet times.
- Looking after my physical body better – which means a departure from the “artist formally known as my hedonistic lifestyle” the self perpetuating cycle of – party, feel bad the next day so do whatever it takes to recuperate which will probably make me feel worse. Being kinder to this vehicle that carries me and my brain around will be a lovely treat.
- Yoga – stating the bleeding obvious I know…but carrying Yoga off my mat into my day as a reminder of all great, good and kind…even though I might want to utter expletives, tell someone’s secret, or eat some wind-up-merchants lunch out of the fridge at work in angry protest – or worse just lick it and put it back. I will remember that putting compassion back into the universe will help with all parts of this journey. Plus I didn’t want their leftover tuna pasta bake anyway.
A nice thing for you to practise might be to think about the kindest things you can do for yourself first of all? And recognising when you haven’t been compassionate, accept the learning and forgive yourself. If you can cultivate compassion towards yourself, this can be the framework of understanding to show compassion to others.
There’s a lovely mantra I have been practising recently to encourage Ahimsa –
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Which translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
Quite lovely. I’ll think twice about that tuna pasta bake now.