The first limb of Yoga is Yama, which deals with one’s ethical standards, behavior, character, and so on. There are five Yamas and the first is Ahimsa; non-violence. And to not harm others is to not harm ourselves.
There are many forms and levels of violence, such as gossip, verbal abuse, narcissism, gaslighting, and so on, but for the purposes of this post, I’m referring to physical violence.
While Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, it’s not meant to imply pacifism. If violence is being done to you, you must respond accordingly. To do nothing in response to violence, we’d be allowing violence to be done, which can be interpreted also as violence.
But if war must be done, it’s objective must be peace.
In the most immediate sense, if violence is being waged against us, there is no peace and the only way to get back to it is through war and this requires violence.
Those instances are rare, so in the meantime, our peacefulness and non-violence perpetuates the concept of Ahimsa among others. It’s just a good way to go about living life and it makes the world a better place. No need to walk around like a miserable honey badger.
Most of the world is made up of good, peaceful, and kind people. But, there are those who aren’t. We can’t have inner or outer peace by pretending violent people don’t exist. Mosquitos still suck our blood and whether we believe in them or not, we still end up with a bleeding, itchy bump.
Real peace doesn’t come from denial. It comes from acknowledging reality, which brings me to Zen. Yep. Zen is letting go of illusions and seeing things as they are, without distortion. Not thinking, but not dreaming. Not being set, but flexible. Zen is being ready, without being tense. It is intuition, rather than ritual study. It is liberation from an uneasy sense of confinement, being wholly and quietly alive, observant and ready for whatever may come.
Acknowledgement, awareness, preparedness, avoidance, capability, and knowledge combat fear, paranoia, anxiety, and aggression, while building and strengthening peace and peacefulness. Zen.
So, what am I getting at?
Yoga is good for our physical, mental, psychological, and emotional well-being. Most of us are conscious of our health and wellness, so we try to reduce stress, get adequate sleep, nurture quality social relationships, exercise, eat good food, and take antioxidants.
But, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention self-protection.
All our efforts to live a healthy, happy life can be negated in seconds with a violent attack. I know; I know, we don’t want to think about that, because real violence doesn’t happen in a nice way and on our time schedule.
Real violence is ugly, fast, brutal, evil, painful, injurious, bloody, dehumanizing, and incomprehensible in real time. That sentence was quite jarring, wasn’t it? And that’s just words on a screen.
I know; no one wants to think about it. I get it. It’s unpleasant. But, it’s a real thing. It’s rare, but still about 200,000 times more likely than winning the lottery (according to FBI stats).
So, in reading that violent sentence, who’s doing all that horrific stuff? It better be you! If not, you’re probably not going to be at Tuesday’s yoga class.
I never liked the term “self-defense”, because it puts people in the victim’s role. We must be able to switch from peaceful, happy human to monster in milli-seconds and that takes training, academics, and mind-setting.
Real self-protection requires breaking down mental barriers. Practically 90% is knowledge, awareness training, observation, mind-setting, preparedness, and learning to tap into intuition. However, the other 10% is quite in-depth and it takes ongoing training. A two-hour seminar ain’t gonna cut it.
Let’s get back to Zen. Zen is being ready, without being tense. It is being wholly and quietly alive, observant and ready for whatever may come.
And Ahimsa: Yes, it’s possible to practice non-violence. Let’s hope so! In fact, it shouldn’t need to be a practice, but a way of being. Peace and non-violence can and should be perpetuated. But, ahimsa does not mean pacifism.
While we protect our health and wellness in many ways, self-protection shouldn’t be ignored.
If you’d like to get some insight as to where this is coming from, these two earlier posts can explain a lot:
Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash