Here, Phil Douglas of Jivamukti Yoga London helps to explain the concept of Ahimsa by suggesting six ways we can practice ahimsa in our daily lives and live a more compassionate life.
Ahimsa is a yogic principle that suggests we should all strive to live a compassionate lifestyle, preventing harm to others and refusing to engage in violent or destructive behaviour. It’s practiced widely in the yoga community, and is one of the five core pillars of Jivamukti Yoga.
- Be Kind to Everyone You Meet
When you meet someone for the first time, treat them with kindness, regardless of how they behave towards you. Never judge someone based upon your limited knowledge of their life – everyone is fighting their own battle, in one way or another. Be empathetic and understanding, even in the face of adversity.
This is no easy task, and you will encounter people that will push you to the very limits of kindness and compassion. Don’t compromise your own beliefs or integrity, no matter how toxic the person may seem. Try to understand what they’re going through and, if you can’t do this, politely distance yourself from their negativity.
- Forgive Freely
Unfortunately, not everyone you meet will share your compassion for others. Even when you seek to surround yourself with positive people, it’s likely you will be hurt at some point in your life. This can be difficult to face, and it’s important to stay mindful of your own thoughts and feelings. Distinguish between emotional and rational thought whenever possible.
When you’re ready, forgive the person who has caused you harm and suffering. This is an important step in moving on from the pain they have caused, and you do not have to wait for the person to ask for forgiveness in order to do this.
- Restrict Your Meat Intake
Vegetarianism is one of the suggested principles of Ahimsa, but this is a personal choice. If you decide to continue eating meat, always buy your produce from ethical sources. Do your research, and find a reputable butcher who prioritises the welfare of the animal and seeks to minimise suffering in any way possible. It’s also a good idea to eat organic.
If you eat lots of meat, try to introduce a meat-free day once per week. Here are some tips on how to restrict your meat intake, check out onegreenplanet.org.
- Compliment Others Regularly
Compliments are powerful. You should provide people with sincere and meaningful compliments, expressing gratitude and admiration whenever it feels appropriate.
For the best results, you should focus on the specific characteristics of a person, rather than their actions. This personalises the compliment, and leaves them with no doubt that it was meant for them.
- Love Yourself, Before Others
In your quest to live a more compassionate lifestyle, it can be easy to overlook the person that matters most: you! If you don’t show compassion towards yourself, how can you expect to show it towards other people?
Be mindful of your thoughts and emotions. Recognise negative, destructive thoughts as they enter your consciousness, and counteract them with positive, self-love. This may seem a little strange to begin with, but it will revolutionise the way you think about yourself and, consequently, others.
- Find Ways to Help Other People
The most compassionate people don’t wait for people to ask for their help, they actively seek opportunities to do so. Aim to make life as easy as possible for other people.
Do you have a friend who’s stressed? Ask them what you can do to reduce their burden. People don’t like asking for help so, if you see someone struggling, help them out!