The Meditation Mantra of the Month is AHIMSA. Ahimsa is a practice of non-violence, kindness, respect, mercy, and doing no harm on purpose. The on purpose part makes a difference. It is making a choice towards mercy and away from vengeance. Ahimsa is respecting yourself enough to choose words that are honest, gracious, and empowering and refrain from words that are demeaning, cruel, and unnecessary. The practice of ahimsa is about making conscious choices that respect, care for, and nurture life. That life might be of animals, people, the oceans; all living things. That’s you too. How do your own words or actions disrespect or diminish you? And your neighbor who doesn’t mow their lawn like you do? You might not slash their tires or cut all their tulips, but how you choose to talk about them in the privacy of your own home or with other neighbors; that is where your practice of ahimsa matters.

Enmity shapes our consciousness and identity. The people we hate haunt us; they inhabit our minds in a negative way as we brood in a deviant form of meditation on their bad qualities. The enemy thus becomes our twin, a shadow self whom we come to resemble.

Karen Armstrong, 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life

Or how about that person in your office, synagogue, or school board who frustrates you to no end? I know that person in my life. More often than not what is on the tip of my tongue when I talk about them (to someone else) is snarky, mean, and condescending. I’m not practicing ahimsa just because I don’t say it directly to their face. My thoughts & words are doing the most damage to myself. I embodying the hurtful and condescending words I am projecting on someone else. ugh. yuck. Do you kiss your mother with that same trashy mouth, you might ask? I know.

I remember a saying that people use curse words because they lack the vocabulary to say something else? Wasn’t it something like that? I wonder if the practice of ahimsa is a practice of building your imagination. It takes a real commitment to hope and honest self-awareness to even imagine a different way to be in relationship with people I don’t like or understand. The easiest and most default response is it lash out with hurtful words, actions, or a combination thereof. That knee jerk response is lacking in imagination. I am lacking in imagination for the others growth and transformation and my own. I’m making the presumption that our personalities, opinions, and ways of being are completely fixed.

The practice of ahimsa requires me to s l o w d o w n – take a breath – wait for the knee jerk reaction to pass, allowing another response that is more creative, hopeful, life-giving, and respectful of myself and others, to come to the surface. It might feel weird and nearly backwards. This weird feeling might be a sign of how far from ahimsa we have come. I have a sense that although we don’t like it, we have gotten so horribly used to feeling hate, disgust, and disdain. Our tolerance for embodying those feelings has grown enough so that we maybe don’t notice how often we feel it. Maybe over time we will develop something like an allergy to words, thoughts, actions, and inactions that are hurtful, divisive, and mean-spirited. Maybe we can strengthen and fine tune our ability to speak and act with humble honesty and care so that it gets a little bit closer to being our default, knee-jerk response.

Imagination is absolutely critical to the quality of our lives. Imagination gives us the opportunity to envision new possibilities – it is an essential launchpad for making our hopes come true. It fires our creativity, relieves our boredom, alleviates our pain, enhances our pleasure, and enriches our most intimate relationships. When people are constantly pulled back into the past, to the last time they felt intense involvement and deep emotions, they suffer from a failure of imagination, a loss of the mental flexibility. Without imagination there is no hope, no chance to envision a better future, no place to go, no goal to reach.

Bessel van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score;Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

It’s hard work. Take naps. Drink water. Go for a walk. Smell fresh fruit.

Peace on your head, you.

rachel

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