There is a danger to these times we live in, and that is the ease with which we can let ourselves off the hook. Violence is in its glory, and we, by comparison, can look pretty good. It’s the ole’ good apples, bad apples thing….we certainly don’t belong in the bad apple basket so we must belong in the good one.
But in the essence of our hearts and minds, there is only one basket, the human basket, and it is a mixed bag. Now, more than ever we are called to scrutinize the deep corners of our being for signs of our own moral weaknesses.
It is not easy to look at ourselves; it takes great courage. But it is necessary for a kind world, a gentle life, and a peaceful mind. The looking itself is hard, but the seeing begins to free us. Just to be aware begins to heal us. So take heart, this is the most important work of our lives.
As I have traveled and taught and received emails from many of you, one request I hear often is for additional questions to each of the yamas and niyamas. In light of that request and with an attempt to address the challenging times we find ourselves in, I will be blogging new questions to each of the yamas and niyamas throughout the year, beginning with nonviolence.
Week One. Search for your perfect “nonviolence” quote, the one that speaks right into your heart and soul. You will know it when you find it. Then memorize it, embrace it, reflect on it, and post it to your bathroom mirror and your refrigerator door. Read it first thing when you wake up and before you go to sleep. Let it fortify and inspire what is noble in you. And if you feel so inclined share your quote in the comments below or on Facebook.
Week Two. Notice each time you place yourself in the “good apple” basket because of something you have just witnessed or heard on the news. Stop comparing yourself. Instead notice the ways you have that very same quality you are condemning. Just sit quietly in that knowing. [Don’t condemn yourself or try to fix yourself. It actually takes more courage to just sit quietly in the awareness of your own moral weakness than to try to do something about it.]
Week Three. Take a world event, policy, or political leader that is particularly offensive or troubling to you. Every day this week sit quietly with this situation or person in mind for 5 minutes and be a neutral witness. Watch all the commentary your mind parades before you. Watch the intense feelings that may arise. What do you notice from this practice? Please note: this practice is not to condone complacency but to get ourselves out of the way of our own strong reactions, so that any necessary action or inaction will be clear to us and appropriate to the issue. [This idea comes from Thomas Hubl: 5 Minute a Day Practice.]
Week Four. This week be a student of kindness and its qualities. Perhaps you might bake cookies for your neighbor, provide childcare for a single mom, help out in a soup kitchen, let someone go in front of you in the check out line… Explore how little it takes to brighten up the corner of the world you occupy.