I learned a bit about acceptance the past few days. Set off with my husband on Thursday for an anniversary celebration in NYC: nice room, theater plans, exhibits to see, and of course, a long “must eat” list. Yes, the best laid plans….Had a lovely afternoon (saw the tree, still up and glorious) but sadly was hit by a raging stomach virus the first evening. So, 96 hours later, I am home, after essentially seeing the inside of an admittedly lovely hotel room for the whole time. Sigh.
I had time to think. I had time to try a lot of breathing exercises to deal with the misery. And while I am very disappointed, I am happy to say that about 15 hours into this experience, I decided that I was incredibly grateful to have a lovely hotel room and an extremely kind husband helping me. I leaned into the acceptance of what had happened and in a much more graceful way than my usual previous self would have, let it go.
In my yogic studies I learned the word Dukkha, suffering, which is part of the human life experience. I do believe that our steady practice of yoga - and I mean a full eight limbed practice including breathwork, meditation, discipline, and self-care - equips us to meet life’s bumps in the road with resiliency. If we understand that rest and care is essential, we will spend the time bolstering our inner resources through our full practice. These resources are available when needed to help us meet life experiences with equanimity and perhaps some humor.
This provides a nice segue way to our exploration of the full eight limbed practice!
Recalling my oft quoted Sutra 1.2, the meaning of yoga, we are at the beginning of journey through. The translation of the Sanskrit “Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah” is “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is Yoga”. Simply put, if we learn to control our mind (through meditation, breath, asanas, contemplation) we will achieve the goal of yoga. The 8 limbs outlined in the Yoga Sutras, serves as a guidebook for a life lived with both ethical and moral behavior as well as self-discipline.
The article below from Chopra.com is one I often refer to as a good reference to the eight limbs.
The First Limb, the Yamas are rules of moral code (there are 5). The first yama is ahimsa, nonviolence or non-harming.
We can think about ahimsa on a large scale in terms of our attitudes toward war, killing and more locally how we live our life and how we interact with our colleagues, neighbors, and community. The harm must be intentional, not accidental. As you walk outdoors you are killing small creatures without intent, as you garden you may also “harm” earthen bugs and worms. Ahimsa is avoiding intentional harm. With words and actions.
For you practicing nonviolence could be a simple as not intentionally killing a bug that is in your home, carefully carrying it outside. Perhaps taking a day off from any critical or judgmental thoughts or comments. Many people consider being a vegan as central to practicing ahimsa, something to chew on 😊 This is a personal practice, there are not strict rules on practicing ahimsa, just to avoid intentional harm. With words and actions.
Below are some articles that explore the topic further, both are from artofliving.org.
Funny story about practicing ahimsa. I was in midst of my yoga teacher training several years ago and traveled with my childhood friends for our annual trip to Florida. My favorite book from that time was Desikachar’s Heart of Yoga which I still read regularly. I came into the living room one afternoon to see my friend wildly swatting and killing bugs with the book (which contained plenty of references on ahimsa). I laughed out loud at the irony….(but yes, I do carry bugs outside).
According to Desikachar, ahimsa means “kindness, friendliness, and thoughtful consideration of other people and things”.
Our Practice – Setu Bandha Sarvangasana - Supported Bridge
In terms of our yoga practice, when we step on our mat we should remind ourselves that pain is not productive, gently pressing to our edge is fine. Being harmful or violent to our bodies in our practice is not practicing ahimsa.
Thinking about doing no harm makes me reflexively think of gentle, restorative postures. In yoga we try many variations of bridge pose in class and supported bridge is a lovely enhancement to that work and is a wonderful nurturing inversion.
The benefits of the pose, being an inversion with our head being below the heart, suppresses the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and promotes the parasympathetic nervous system. Basically, it helps us relax. The back benefits from the extension aiding to improve posture and is also a heart/chest opener. I think it helps with chronic back pain.
To come into this restorative pose, lie on your mat with a block nearby.
Lie on your back soles of the feet on the floor and knees bent, feet hips width apart. Arms are alongside your body with fingers toward your feet. Feet are parallel.
Lift your hips off the floor pressing down in your feet and place a under your back, directly under sacrum. This should feel very comfortable, play around with the block on the short side or middle side to determine what feels most comfortable for you. Stay for several minutes if possible as your body settles into the passive backbend.
To come out of the pose, push down through your feet, lift your hips, and remove the block.
For more about this pose see the link below from the huggermugger website.
Meditation – Ahimsa – Non Violence
“Nonviolence is the greatest and most active force in the world. One cannot be passively nonviolent. One person who can express ahimsa in life exercises a force superior to all the forces of brutality” - Mahatma Gandhi
For more on Gandhi and his work for peace:
Peace Is This Moment Without Judgment – Dorothy Hunt
Do you think peace requires an end to war?
Or tigers eating only vegetables?
Does peace require an absence from your boss, your spouse, yourself?...
Do you think peace will come some other place than here?
Some other time than Now?
In some other heart than yours?
Peace is this moment without judgment.
That is all. This moment in the Heart-space
where everything that is is welcome.
Peace is this moment without thinking
that it should be some other way,
that you should feel some other thing,
that your life should unfold according to your plans.
Peace is this moment without judgment,
this moment in the Heart-space where
everything that is is welcome.
Dorothy Hunt is the founder of the San Francisco Center for Meditation and Psychotherapy and serves as Spiritual Director and President of Moon Mountain Sangha, Inc., a California non-profit religious corporation.
Nurturing with Food – Vegan “Chicken” Noodle (Rice) Soup
I cannot enthusiastically offer much in terms of recipes this week. I have not been eating let alone cooking. On the train home last night I asked Peter to make me the Vegan “Chicken” Noodle soup, my go to for when I am not feeling well. Was ready for a little something but wanted to keep in the spirit of mild and easily digestible. He made a version last night with rice versus noodles (was thinking of the BRAT diet) and it was exactly what my body needed. Self-care, a big part of acceptance and ahimsa!
See you on the mat!