One of my philosophy papers I wrote in teacher training….. =)
Ahimsa can be translated as non-violence. It represents part of the Yamas which are a way to control, restrain, and develop a right attitude toward our environment. Himsa goes far more than the notion of violence which we tend to correlate with weapons or hatred toward someone else. It can be negative thoughts or feelings about someone or ourselves. Before exerting violence toward someone else we must look within and how we feel about ourselves. Our words, our thoughts, and actions can cause pain.
Ahimsa can be practiced with the technique of Pratipaksha Bhavanam which Patanjali describes in sutra 2.33 “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of…” This is not an easy process to change when your mind has been fueled by negative thoughts for many years. The benefits of Pratipaksha Bhavanam will not be seen over night, but I can vouch the results are real.
From a personal standpoint, before I began Yoga I did not practice ahimsa. My mind was filled with negative thoughts about myself. I had many insecurities which led to me having low self-esteem. I lacked confidence and walked around with this looming presence. If I felt this way about myself how could I expect to establish a relationship with someone else? My negative thoughts continued to grow like bacteria and the mishaps in my life fell one after another.
I began reading blogs like The Daily Love, which is basically the technique of Pratipaksha Bhavanam. It helped to form positive thoughts in my mind, but by reading someone else’s experience. It took several years for me to realize I had the power to change my negative thoughts. Because I now practice ahimsa toward myself, my compassion for others is different as well. My thoughts are no longer fueled by negative thoughts and it seems that my life has also taken a more positive direction.
The combination of my physical Yoga practice and Pratipaksha Bhavanam has made me happier, much more confident, and relaxed about my decisions and future. Underneath all the crazy mind-stuff, we all just want to be loved but we must begin by loving ourselves.