The Path of Ahimsa


 By Mahan Khalsa CYA-E-RYT500

As I sit here after my morning meditation, I am contemplating how I, as a devoted yogini of almost 2 decades, can right the imbalances that we as humanity face. Everywhere we look, whether it’s social media, the news or even our own backyards, we are confronted daily with political, social, economic and environmental crisis. So, what is my role? Is it possible for my words, thoughts and deeds to bring balance during these times of mass humanitarian crisis? And, if so, how?

Looking out at the world and finding answers can feel overwhelming, so what about going within and reviewing our own inner landscape? We all know the saying, “let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me”. What if taking responsibility for our own selves can shift and polarize the negativity we face?

It is here that “ahimsa” arises in my consciousness. In the literal sense, ahimsa means “non-violence” and many have understood it to mean not killing another living or non-living being. Vegetarianism has spread all over the world because of these teachings. Over the years of my practice, I have come to understand ahimsa in its subtler sense. Cultivating universal love and compassion for myself and all beings strengthens a sense of ethical, moral and societal responsibility.

The practice of ahimsa is infused in all aspects of life, from the physical to the mental and emotional. Awareness is the key to shifting our beliefs, habits and patterns from violent to loving ones. Learning to witness ourselves with compassion is the first step in liberating ourselves from the waging war within. With loving acceptance, we begin to see how we perpetrate violence on the planet through believing in our own limiting beliefs, the negative stories we tell ourselves and how we act out our deepest fears and insecurities. How do we expect there to be peace on earth when we are violent towards our own selves? Beginning to notice your own self-talk and forgiving yourself is the first step. Over time, inner peace springs forth like the lotus emerging on the surface of the muddy pond. 

It is said we cannot give to another what we do not have. 

Extending love and compassion to others is a natural evolution of your inner work. My grandmother always said, “sharing is caring”. It feels good for both the giver and the receiver. Remembering that we are all different and unique allows us to cultivate tolerance for others, increasing feelings of connection. This opens our hearts to more positive, healthy emotions and experiences. Taking time to see the other person as you, knowing that we are all human and share this planet as our home, dissolves barriers and borders, shifting us from separation to oneness. 

Practicing ahimsa daily can inspire us to focus on what we have, rather than what we don’t have. Celebrating our victories, rather than wallowing in our sorrows or getting caught up in what’s not working shifts our mindset. Having an attitude of gratitude elevates you and those around you. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, your friends, family and community. I have a teenage daughter and I see how my yoga practice has affected her mindset and perception of the world. From an early age, I exposed her to different cultures, religions and traditions and educated her through life experiences to understand that we truly are ONE global family. 

Accepting that our decisions and actions affect the next 7 generations to come, means that we have a responsibility to “be the change we wish to see in the world”. Often, we’d rather blame or shame others, making it about them rather than us. Ahimsa is the highest form of yoga, it is a mindset and a way of life. Through a non-violent freedom movement, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom around the world. 

Getting angry at what is happening outside ourselves will never bring peace on earth. Like Gandhi, we can practice ahimsa and be an inspiration to others to live non-violently. Learning to breathe deeply, to not become reactive and to hold a loving space shows others what is possible. It is time for us to be living embodiments of kindness, peace, health and happiness. Every moment, we have this opportunity. Sharing inspiring stories, messages and quotes on social media and in-person helps to shine light into the world and counter the mass darkness and destruction present at this time. Together, we are powerful, we can give ourselves and others a break… helping each other live smoothly, lovingly and gracefully even in ungraceful situations and times.

Will you join me? Are you ready to make a commitment to support non-violence and break the silence? Is it your time to shine and inspire others to do the same?

Peace and love to all-beings in all worlds.

Sat nam. 

Mahan Khalsa

Mahan Khalsa