ahimsa – how to practice the first yama of non-violence to others

October 21, 2021
ahimsa // compassion // eightlimbs // eightlimbsofyoga // mindfulness // non-violence // patanjali // philosophy // unconditionallove // yamas // yoga

“Who will be the happiest person? The one who brings happiness to others.” 

Swami Satchidananda

This quote emphasises the key teaching of this first Yama. We often talk of ahimsa as non-harming to ourselves but the 5 yamas are ‘restraints’ in our attitude to others and the world. 

ahimsa – non-harming/non-violence making up the first of the five yamas

yamas – values connected to our deeper emotions, our karma and universal laws/dharma

himsa – harming/violence

prefix ‘a’ – creates the opposite value 

Non-harming: physical, verbal, mental, emotional

The eight limbs teach us that if we don’t practice the yamas all the time, sorrow and ignorance will always follow us. 

‘In the presence of one firmly established in non violence, all hostilities cease’ 

Sutra 2:35

Patanjali talks of how to avoid suffering through the 8 limbed path of yoga with this first instruction: ahimsa. Through practicing non-harming to others we find compassion. Through being compassionate to others we find inner happiness. This is the result. 

We all live in a world where we want to be happy and to be free from suffering. If we try to accumulate happiness through selfish actions with ourselves always reaping the reward, our happiness will inevitably be short lived. Patanjali teaches us that happiness is achieved if one detaches from the fruits of ones actions. Only then can happiness be long lived. And how can we find inner peace? Through being compassionate to others.

  • What is the opposite of violence? Love. 
  • How can we practice sharing love to all beings? 
  • Can we love those we dislike? 
  • Can we love our enemies? 
  • Can we love those with different opinions and values to us? 
  • We all want equality but can we truly love all beings with equality in mind?

When should we practice love?

  • Where there is divide, let there be love.
  • Where there is hostility, let there be love.
  • Where there is hatred, let there be love.
  • Where there is difference, let there be love.
  • Where there is war, let there be love.
  • Where there is poverty, let there be love.
  • Where there is lack, let there be love.
  • Where there is competition, let there be love.
  • Where there is uncertainty, let there be love.

Here is a prompt for your meditation based on ahimsa – non-harming or non-violence 

Find a comfortable seat and take a few moments to notice how you feel. Your body, your mind, your emotions; notice it all and welcome all of your experiences in. 

Start to become still and observe the stillness around you and within you. 

Take a deep breath in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. 

Bring your attention to your heart centre and start to invite in love and compassion into your heart. Notice any feelings or thoughts around this without judgement, letting them go as soon as they come in. 

Come back to your breath. 

Visualise a beautiful pink light warming up your heart space and expanding out around you. Let this beautiful pink light expand further and further until you are completely engulfed in its radiance and love. 

Start to bring into your heart space someone that you love dearly. Hold them in your heart and let the beautiful pink light surround them and fill them with love. Stay here as long as you need. 

When ready, being your attention to someone you are fond of, a friend perhaps, and let this beautiful light engulf them too, surrounding them with love. 

When you feel called to, move your attention to someone you know of yet have no emotion toward; a neighbor or acquaintance that pops into your life once in a while. Surround them with this beautiful pink light and let them feel your love. 

Stay here as long as you need to. 

Now I want you to bring your attention to someone that you are perhaps estranged from; a friend you no longer speak to; an ex partner that you have separated from for example. Do the same. Surround them with this eternal beautiful pink light and let them feel the power of this love that has no judgement or discrimination. 

Be here as long as feels comfortable. 

Lastly, I’d like you to send this love and healing pink light to all beings everywhere. May all beings be enraptured by this beautiful energy and healing love until all you see and all you feel is a powerful and healing pink light across the globe, surrounding all beings with love. 

When you feel ready, come quietly back to yourself. Be gentle, hold yourself for a moment in that very same light and love and know that you are also loved so deeply. 

Take time to stretch and unravel from your meditation, treading carefully as you get up and move about your day.

Laura x