At this time in history, in our culture, the application of ahimsa (Sanskrit: non-violence) means to step-up and remember our power as spiritual warriors more than ever. Now is our time, the time that kindness and compassion are most needed. We shouldn’t get caught up in thinking that our efforts must be heroic or awe-inspiring. We can make a difference in the everyday. It is in the small moments of the everyday that transformation takes place. It says in the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient scripture from India named the ‘Lord’s Song’, that if we offer something as small and unassuming as a leaf or a flower to the Divine in humility and love, that offering will be accepted and rewarded. It’s not about grand gestures, but rather patience, persistence and kindness in the small moments.
Offer me a flower or a leaf …
As a child I sang in the choir of my local church, which was a small, very traditional, beautiful but cold and musty building in the village that I grew up in. I loved that place because it was the first sacred space I ever went to regularly. The first temple. My favourite Christmas carol, which I remember from these times, is ‘The Little Drummer Boy’. It tells the story of a ‘poor child’ who goes to see the baby Jesus in Bethlehem but has nothing to offer. So he just plays his drum and baby Jesus smiles at him. This is sadhana (conscious spiritual practice) in action.
Our task is as simple as picking a flower or two, lighting a candle and filling our homes with the sweet smell of incense or natural oils and devotional music. Make some fresh herbal tea. Sit down and journal our dreams and wishes for the year, and keep it simple and kind. Ask ourselves ‘how can I give more?’, ‘how can I step up?’. Our efforts do not have to be perfect – that’s why we call them part of a ‘practice’ in yoga. For me, more patience, less distraction and more presence are clear goals at the moment, especially with my young children. I wish to sit in wisdom, the vast world of intuition, dreams and mystery; this is to live in yoga.
The alchemy of love
The practice of ahimsa (non-violence) is a practice of alchemy. Alchemy means to transform one substance into another, usually more valuable, substance for example turning base metal into gold. Through the practice of ahimsa, we transform not only ourselves but the world around us. The ancient saints and sages who developed and codified the yogic practices which we still do today knew this. They retreated into quiet spaces such as caves and forests to get very still and very grounded in order to figure out how alchemy was possible. They realised that we are all part of one energy, we are all one thing together. Separateness is an illusion.
They called this realisation ‘enlightenment’. But they also knew in their great wisdom that it would be very difficult for most people to feel this connection. Most of us feel that we are separate. So, they made a suggestion: start with being kind. This is the secret formula to fixing almost any problem. Kindness is the magic ingredient that makes alchemy possible. It turns lumps of lead into gold. Through the practices of yoga – starting with ahimsa – we start to see the oneness of being in the world. We stop seeing ourselves as separate.