Ahimsa is an ethical discipline, or yama, that at its simplest means non-violence.  This concept is practiced in as many different ways as there are individuals who strive to adhere to its message, but the theme remains the same:  To practice a life of compassion, gentleness, and love.

Like a rose, the petals of violence are many and they unfold one atop the other.  At the center is spiritual apathy, a disjointed view of who we are as a species, who we are as individuals, who we are in relation to each other and where our place is in the natural world around us.  This apathy opens us to emotional despair - confusion, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and no sense of our own worth or the worth of those around us.  Finally, this leads to the outermost petals of the rose, the ones who seem to decay the fastest, those of physical violence, the manifestations of which are devastating to who we are a species, who we are as individuals, who we are in relation to each other and the natural world around us.

Ahimsa isn't only about those outer petals of physical violence, the blows we inflict upon ourselves and others.  It's about the emotional and spiritual violence, as well.  Hate, prejudice, anger - all of these things cause injury, all of them are harmful.  Our thoughts and our words need to come into line with a concept of non-violence if we are to reap the benefits of a life lived truly in compassion.

We all are guilty of planting seeds of violence.  When we exert our power over those who are smaller than us, like stepping on an ant, we are actively guilty.  When we walk past a beggar and avert our eyes, we are guilty by omission.  When we spread a rumor, hold a grudge, feed a deep-seeded hatred, we are passively guilty.

Ahimsa requires some initial discomfort.  We need to make ourselves small so that we can see how big everything else truly is; we need to make ourselves nothing so we can see the something in others; we need to let go so we can give back; step back so others can step forward.  When we are all doing these things, we will all meet in the middle.  If something pleases me but hurts six other people, I need to sacrifice that happiness, because I am only one but they are many.

In my own life, I fail a lot.  I am impatient, I am emotionally volatile, I am lazy.  Each time I stumble, though, I see it not as a fault but as a teacher, an opportunity to recognize the bad in me and hopefully exorcise it so the next time I'm walking down that same sidewalk toward a violent outburst, I can try to avoid tripping over the same cracks.  I have a long way to go, but I have a long time to get there.

You are stronger than me.  Walk with me.  Hold me up.  Forgive me my faults and know that I am trying.

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"Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts." - Buddha