It took me years of yoga to discover that physical perfection is not the goal of yoga. Working on my body did begin a powerful unraveling of tension, but what was buried underneath needed looking at too. My mind’s reactions and fears were blocking the light of my inner radiance from shining through.
Fortunately, yoga offers ten lifestyle practices, specifically designed to help you unveil the consciousness that you are. They empower you to live more consciously with others as well as with yourself. The first and most important of these is ahimsa: non-harming or non-violence.
I always considered myself a kind person, trying to be nice to others, even holding my tongue when angry. Unfortunately, I discovered that this did not mean that I was being non-violent. My outer actions did not always match my thoughts. I found harmful thoughts in there, even when I didn’t act on them. I discovered that sometimes I was kind as a way to winning someone’s approval or to make them feel better — pure manipulation!
This kept my mind churning, obscuring the light of my own Divinity, just as Patanjali warns:
Vrtti-saaruupyam itaratra — Yoga Sutras 1.4
When you are not established in Self-Knowingness,
you are lost in your churning mind.
From yoga’s perspective, non-harming isn’t about being a better person, although you will be. Non-harming is about quieting your mind, so that you can experience “svaroopa,” the bliss of your own Being.
Yoga says that no matter what kind of day you are having, good or bad, you are still the Light of Consciousness. This divine energy has manifested all that exists, becoming you: your body, mind, heart and soul. If you don’t feel fully “divine” as you read this, it’s because your mind limits you so well that you cannot catch it in the act.
Yet, after a yoga class, you feel more open, relaxed, even blissful. This is the real you, hidden just beneath all the stuff you get caught up in. Unfortunately, after yoga, it doesn’t take long for your mind to kick in again, to throw you for a loop. Noticing how quick this happened to me is how I realized I was ready for the other yoga practices: meditation, chanting and paying attention to how I treat others. This dimension yoga is opening me to a richer and fuller life. And to the deeper dimensions, the mystical dimensions, within myself.
It’s simple, but not easy. Practicing non-harming is most challenging in relationships. When your buttons get pushed, how do you react? By practicing non-harming, you learn to respond to a situation or person, a response that comes from a deeper place inside. Swami Nirmalananda describes what happens:
“The light of your own Being arises from its source, spills into your life, and fills your relationships with light, love and joy.”
The ancient sages knew this, which is why they made ahimsa the prerequisite before teaching their students anything else. It was the first step for becoming a yogi. Whether yoga gives you a perfect body or not, ahimsa gives you a quiet mind. Peaceful, free from the confusion and darkness that has been covering your heart. In the process of discovering your own Self, your inherent Divinity.
Let each day begin with the vow: I will do no harm.