Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ahimsa


Tuesday, the hubby's official day off and one of the very few that he didn't pick up an extra shift, was a busy day for my family. We moved around a lot. By the time we got around to our last stop, Home Depot and Costco, we figured the best thing to do was to split up so as to save time and get the boys home. So the hubby dropped me off at Costco with Z2 and took Z1 with him to Home Depot. At Home Depot, they were getting planks of plywood to build the raised boxes as well as potting soil and other things we need for the garden. At Costco, I was getting fruits and greens. We finished around the same time but the hubby was having a difficult time getting everything to fit into the car so I was waiting for him at the eating area trying to keep Z2 amused. He wasn't amused. He was cranky and tired and wanted to go home. In a few minutes, he turned from just being whiny to all-out crying. I did all I could to calm him down but he wouldn't be consoled.

Eventually, the hubby finished up and drove over to pick me and Z2 up. Then we got to share our stories. While the hubby was shoving planks of wood into the back of the car and trying to corral Z1 or otherwise get him to stop talking so he could focus, a guy was standing there talking incessantly about the great deals he was able to get at Home Depot Expo which is going out of business. Never once did he offer the hubby a hand or try to keep Z1 amused. While I was waiting at the eating area, a lady kept giving me stink looks as if somehow I could control Z2's crying anymore than I already was. In fact, one more stink look from that chick and I'm almost 100% sure I would have gone off on her.

From our experiences, we both marveled at how these days, there seems to be a sore lack of compassion. People see someone doing their best, trying their best and it doesn't stir up anything in them, doesn't make them think, "Hmmm . . . if that were me I would appreciate if . . .

Personally, I've been meditating on yoga philosophy, specifically the Yamas and the Niyamas, powerful principles to live by. A lot of the principles are not new to me but for some reason these days, they are more penetrating, more real. I can clearly see how they can lead to a more fulfilled life and, not to sound corny or anything, a peaceful world. Now, I know not everyone is willing to strive to live these principles but I can actually visualize the changes that would happen if we all did. Maybe one day we all will.

The Yama or Wise Characteristic of Ahimsa (literally translated as "nonviolence") is compassion for all living things came to my mind immediately as I thought about these situations that the hubby and I dealt with. Why? Because even though those two folks weren't exactly compassionate to us, we weren't compassionate to them either. Maybe that dude who was talking the hubby's ear off doesn't have anyone else to talk to. Maybe talking helps him to take his mind off some awful situation in his life. Maybe that chick who was giving me the stink looks had a raging headache or had such a difficult day that all she wanted to do was eat her pizza in peace and there Z2 was jacking everything up. We've all been in funky places where our behavior was less than stellar.

What about if we had enough compassion on ourselves to have ample compassion on others?

And it is clear to me that compassion is not the same as pity. Most people do not want pity. But we all need and want compassion. Why? Pity looks down. It comes from a place of superiority. Compassion, on the other hand, looks at and comes from a place of equality. Compassion doesn't mean that we give folks free passes to do foolishness to us, be abusive towards us, or put us in harm's way (because the most important compassion is towards our own selves). Compassion doesn't give people a free ride just because we can understand where they are coming from/where they are. Compassion does not mean we do not exercise proper judgment. But people feel compassionate energy. I've noticed with my children that when I'm compassionate to their frustration, anger or other emotions that cause them to do things they're not supposed to do (in Z1's case that's usually to throw something; in Z2's case that's usually to bite), I'm much more successful in getting the negative behavior to turn into positive behavior--much more quickly. I stumbled upon that realization when I was teaching too. In trying to help others, in trying to uplift others, having compassion and emitting it freely goes a long way in establishing that we are genuine and true. It goes a long way in turning the negative into the positive because we are able to be at (not get down to) the same level, the same wavelength.

How can we cultivate compassion? For those of us who enjoy meditation, there's the practice of Tonglen. On a more basic level, we can choose to actually listen to the experiences of others (even if they're not explicitly telling you their deal). We can take a moment to reflect upon situations (past or present) and infuse those situations with compassion simply because we have all been there and done that. Simply because we are all connected even if we don't like to admit it.

I'm working on a daily basis to cultivate the Yamas and the Niyamas in my life and trying to find ways to give these powerful principles to my children.

Image from commons.wikipedia.org: The hand with a wheel on the palm symbolizes . . . Ahimsa, meaning non-violence. The word in the middle is "ahimsa" in Sanskrit. The wheel represents the dharmachakra, to halt the cycle of reincarnation through relentless pursuit of truth.

1 comment:

Miriam said...

"we are all connected even if we don't like to admit it."

This is so true.

How to cultivate compassion? Not sure but I do know knowledge has a big role in it.

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