Living with love is the first and foremost teaching when learning about the 8 limbed path of yoga.
Your heart is wide open, vast like the sky, an unending and unconditional expanse of pure love and kindness.
We only “think” we can close our heart but, it is never closed. Think about your deepest points of grief or anger, isn’t there always an element of love under it all?
When we are hurt deeply by another’s actions or our own, aren’t we upset, jaded and angry BECAUSE of the injustice we feel?
Love is an undying emotion. Love never ceases to exist. Love heals all and love IS all.
We all have a deep capacity for love and BEING loving. It is innate. It is within us, and every thought and every action we ever take. When we can learn how to embrace love and enjoy being loving without expectation it opens our world to a new level of living in connection.
Finding JOY is embracing LOVE.
In yoga there are 5 internal guidelines that when practiced change the heart of how we interact within this life. These ancient guidelines are taught in countless texts and have been carried through the centuries. In fact, these sacred teachings are not only in yoga but also found in religion and the traditional spiritual teachings of Indigenous peoples. These internal guidelines are known as the “Yamas.”
Today I am going to talk about one single aspect of the greater 8 limbed path of yoga. But to give context I will first share the 5 internal commitments that one makes when on the path to wholeheartedness. The Yamas are a collection of 5 virtues we can live by. These are what make up the first limb of the 8-limbed path. Some call them the “virtues of personal morality” and in my time studying and integrating these virtues into my life, everything began to transform for the better.
The yamas are the virtues of:
Ahimsa – non-harm,
Asteya – non-stealing,
Bramacharya – moderation, and
Aparigraha – non-possessiveness.
When I first learned about Ahimsa, I was very judgmental, mean, cold, often saying rude things and calling people out on their stupidity. A lot of people might agree that I was sometimes not a very nice person.
Ahimsa would be my window to unconditional kindness. I just loved how it felt, I WANTED to be kinder, I wanted to be “nice” … I was just so hurt by my past that I didn’t know how.
Have you ever justified bad behaviour because the person was stupid, wrong, or annoying? Because they didn’t fit into a box that you created for how people should act?
I know I did it a lot more than I would like to admit.
One time I yelled at a young girl in the checkout line at a grocery store. It was so busy, and she was taking forever. When we FINALLY got to the transaction part I paid in cash, and she struggled to figure out my change. She gave me the wrong change multiple times and finally, frustrated, I angrily told her she was a complete idiot and walked away with less than I was owed because it wasn’t worth it to continue trying to explain that I had given her the exact change to receive a bill back. I completely lost my temper and was so harsh I can guess she probably cried.
Have you ever found yourself taking your anger and frustration out on a stranger in a way you would NEVER treat someone you know and love?
I still feel awful about how I treated that girl. To this day I wish I could go back and apologize and be more generous in helping her to stay calm and sort the change properly. I can’t believe I degraded another human being over something so trivial. But I did. I was struggling. And I didn’t have the tools then, that I have now.
Now I do the work to heal and find emotional balance so to never do something like that again.
The first time I learned about the word Ahimsa I learned its meaning was non-harm. Not causing harm seems virtuous enough. Ahimsa’s precept that one living being should “cause no injury” to another living being including one’s deeds, words, and thoughts.
Makes sense, right? Do no harm.
Some people take it as a call to vegetarianism. Some people think it’s just saying to treat others how you would like to be treated. But after years of more investigation, I have decided Ahimsa is explaining something much deeper and richer than simply non-harm. I think it’s the ultimate call to live in our hearts center. THE most important virtue to live by and something that can easily be available to all of us.
During my second 200 hr YTT I learned Ahimsa from the perspective of self. That not only is it to not cause harm to another living being, but to make sure that we include our SELF.
Whoa… this would be life changing. This would be a whole new level integrating Ahimsa into my life. Because even after all the work I did to treat others with fairness and respect, I was still not very kind to myself. I was thinking in ways that caused me pain, I was living in a way that caused me physical harm and more pain. I had taken on this new identity of unconditional kindness to everyone BUT MYSELF! I was still causing myself a lot of unnecessary suffering.
If you want to embrace the virtue of ahimsa completely, it must include how you are treating yourself.
Non-harm. Cause no harm.
How are you causing harm in your own life?
You cannot act fully in the virtue of Ahimsa without recognizing how you treat yourself, speak to yourself, the choices you make, what you put into your body.
So, for me it became less about how I use this in terms of external restraints – “don’t do these” – and more about integrating them as internal imperatives – “do these to LIVE WELL.”
Okay so now how do we swing around and embrace this concept into our journey with controlling alcohol?
Well, this is a multilayered discussion and in order to keep this brief and readable I will just speak about it from my own relationship with alcohol.
Embracing Ahimsa to control alcohol is about learning to love ourselves deeper and bring awareness to the things in our lives causing pain and suffering. Ahimsa is the KEY TO AWARENESS. Where there is judgment there are answers. Learning to love others and love ourselves COMPLETELY is the practice of spirituality. The compassion-based teacher, Danielle Laporte says, “Spirituality is the practice of thinking with Love.” So, if love is spirituality and awareness is key to love, how do we learn to embrace Ahimsa as the highest form of spiritual growth and use it to help us change our relationship with alcohol?
Here are 5 ways to use Ahimsa on your journey to make alcohol small and irrelevant in your life.
One could argue that the most important aspect of changing our relationship with alcohol is curiousity. Coming into a space of open-mindedness and allowing for what comes up to just BE. Letting go of judgment of how things “should be” and embracing them AS THEY ARE is the only way to bring truth into how you really feel about alcohol and begin to see how alcohol is really showing up for you, so then you can begin to CHOOSE how YOU WANT your relationship with alcohol to look and feel.
Again, referring to finding the truth about how alcohol is really making you feel in your life right now. Not basing it on how your THINK it is helping you but really reflecting on the moments when you drink too much. Is it worth the hangovers, regrets and bad behaviours that come with drinking this mind-altering substance? Start to get comfortable with journalling after a drinking experience, did alcohol help you to show up as your best self? Or did it hide the best parts of yourself behind boisterous confidence and lower your inhibitions to the point of making decisions we wouldn’t normally make? Reflection is based on the past and is necessary to show us the repetitive anguish drinking brings to our lives. What if you could love the past versions of yourself and forgive fully? What could that open for your future?
Self-compassion is key to reinventing our relationship with alcohol. It’s easy to blame ourselves or think that if we feel bad enough about our actions that maybe we might not ever do it again. How is this working out for you? I know in my experience that beating myself up only made my drinking worse. I might feel ashamed enough to control it for a while but in the end, alcohol kept coming back in worse ways over time and the choices I made while drunk seemed to also continue to get worse. It was only when I started having compassion for my situation and looking at the why of my drinking that I was able to start moving away from my harmful behaviours towards ones that made me feel strong and in control. It all starts with loving ourselves first.
I chose the word radiance because it illuminates the life-force we all have, it points to the very thing we are all made of — LOVE. Love is radiance. Radiance is love. Have you ever looked at a pregnant woman and thought about how much beauty emanates from her changing body? It’s because creating life is literally RADIATING OUT OF HER in a fantastically beautiful way. She is learning a new sense of love, and it’s palpable for all in her presence. Alcohol dims our shine, dulls our glow, darkens our light. Allowing for our radiance to shine through is key to gaining a new perspective on life without alcohol. Moving towards radiance is a form of love, another way to live into Ahimsa. No radiant being is thought of as harmful. It is life, it is a beautiful comforting energy, and it can only be felt when we stop numbing and start living life in its fullness. We are radiant beings; alcohol only dims that.
This might seem like reflection, but for me contemplation is thinking about how things are – it is a forward motion energy, it is less about looking at the past and instead thinking about the present so we can create a new future. We must contemplate how things are, how it feels in our body. In the journey to controlling alcohol contemplation is sitting with discomfort, so we can begin to imagine freedom from it. Contemplating what life will look like in 5 years if things stay the same. Contemplating what life can look like if you decide to change them. Silent contemplation has become my greatest asset, a tool for growth and imagination. Just imagining freedom is the first step to finding it. Contemplation breeds belief. Belief in yourself is a high form of Ahimsa.
If Ahimsa is non-harming and non-violence, it makes a clear argument that this virtue is important for people on the journey to control over alcohol. There are countless examples of the external harm alcohol creates when someone drinks too much. Drunk driving, abuse, sexual assault, harassment, violence, aggression, and the list goes on and on. But internally the violence is mirrored. Self-doubt, hatred, shame, blame, lowered inhibitions, poor judgment, dulled perception, memory loss, vomiting, and again the list goes on and on.
If we want to control alcohol and make it small and irrelevant it’s as simple as changing our perspective of it.
Ahimsa is a valuable tool to living a more heart centered and wholesome life, it is a guideline to help point us towards living with love and love is the basis for life as a human being. Love more fully and we receive more love. Integrating Ahimsa more completely into my life has been THE MOST profoundly liberating experience and I hope to share some of that realization with you.
Practice being more kind, accepting and forgiving of yourself and others. Unconditional kindness.
Let me know what stands out for you.
And as always please know that if you are struggling with your relationship around alcohol, it is so easy to hide away and feel like there is no hope, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You are not alone.
Yoga is Now.
There is so much love for you here,
PS. I have a very LOVING offer available until the end of the year.
You can receive a 3 for 1 – 1:1 session package with me for a ridiculously low price. But this price WILL NOT BE AVAILABLE in the new year (and probably never again).
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