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.
I love your book and use it daily in my yoga class for setting the intentions and to teach from. My question is this. In these days of so much violence I am seeing so many yogi friends reacting and behaving in violence and claiming it to be in ‘love’ and I have been told that as a yogi it is ‘our moral and ethical duty’. This confuses me deeply, for their words and behaviors speak very clearly hate. I believe that Ahimsa is the first yama for a reason. If Satya causes harm then we must not speak it and resort to always ahimsa first. I believe there is a better way to this dilemma and and the way is found in scriptures and the Yama’s. I would love your thoughts on this.
Annette, I agree. These are challenging times and we all need to speak up for the earth, the children, and those suffering injustices. But I think our words and actions need to come from a place of deep self-reflection, shadow work, and humility. These practices produce a compassionate love that has real power because they open our hearts and tame our hatred. Otherwise we fall into a self-righteous “us vs. them” and become the very thing we are speaking against.
I’m so loving your book I haven’t had a book grab me like this since I read way of the peaceful warrior 30 years ago so loving the journey your book is put together so nicely thank so much for writing it
Thank you, Shannon. I’m glad you are finding it supportive.
The quote I like to remember is “Be the change you want to see in the world”-Ghandi
Thank you Deborah for your beautiful book. Your book was my first delving into the world of the yamas and niyamas. I loved it’s simple explanations and ways to incorporate the practices into everyday life situations.
Grateful to find your website and insights to add to my life journey..
One of my favorite quotes, too. Thank you and blessings to you.
Your statement of placing ethical principles in the context of our times feels human and supportive..nonviolent.