The word of the day is ahimsa. It has been drifting serenely–in little ripples like a pond surface lightly touched or the easiest of breeze on clear nights–and purposefully through my mind for days now. I feel like I’m settled onto it, drifting as well in a snug and smooth-sailing, non-roiling vessel, so incredibly full of serenity and refusal to injure and all other good intentions toward all living things of this world.
Until “words, like violence, break the silence, come crashing in,” to quote from a classic, and in certain moments quite apt, song. In other words, this magnitude of serenity and good, healing intentions envelops me until the moment I turn a negative thought into a negative chain of words and engage in life’s simplest of wars, The Argument.
Life can benefit from the act of disagreeing, we do learn, grow, and actually increase durability and intimacy in our relationships through the art of disagreement. Disagreement as an art shows us how to agree when we disagree, to dislike the idea but not the person, to operate with tolerance and accept diversity of personality for the richness that diversity provides. When we learn to disagree effectively, when we maintain both composure and compassion, and some integrity along with a little class, then disagreement is an art and a tool and a positive resource. If an argument evolves, so be it; sometimes it is a good emotional release and still leads us to opening our eyes to a new perspective once all simmers down. When argument evolves into the realms of untrained aggression though, then it is just untrained aggression–a misguided use of passion that grows beyond our control and is more inclined to harm another. To hurt. To injure. If the injury avoids manifesting in the physical, then it is an emotional/mental/spiritual type of injury. It is neither a comfortable or healthy state of disarray to be left in, most definitely not able to be classified among the good stresses we encounter.
There are many times I simply wish I could live in a world where animals talk, unicorns exist, people smile quite a bit if not all of the time, and dragons can be good friends of ours. A completely idealistic (and of course quite unreal) place of innocence.
And so a little day of arguing can do such things to our emotional processes at times.
When I come back to myself, within this world and all of its beauty amidst imperfection, I shake away my escapist desires for blissful perfection (including unicorns, dragons, and talking, cute animals) and accept that all trials and tribulations are wonderful opportunities to learn, teach and continue building values. And ahimsa enters my mind once again and without judgement; never judging me for losing sight of its principles for a few moments, never judging me for needing to work extra hard at times to make it an action rather than an idea.
Ahimsa means “non-injury” in the Sanskrit language. I have read about it many times over the years while studying history and spiritual practices related to Hinduism and Buddhism, in biographies of Ghandi, and in seeking inspirational humanitarian quotes to add to the collection in one of my notebooks. I crossed paths with ahimsa again in a World Religions course at a time when I had begun putting more spiritual practices into practice in my own life. It always struck me what a nice coincidence it is that the word is soft and light. Ahh-heem-sahhh. It sounds like a comfortable sigh in a sunny and quiet room inside of any comfortable, comforting place of peace. I like to combine it with my breath at times, say it quietly and with repetition, when using breathing techniques to level away daily stresses and relax. I say it also as a reminder, a post-it note stuck with a big,gold star sticker to the mind’s third eye.
Turn the other cheek. Don’t injure. I want to be a turn-the-other-cheek type of person, in the way the saying, the instruction, was intended, which biblically refers to refraining from an act of retaliation for a physical or emotional attack. I want to keep with me what I inherited from the Christian upbringing I had and all of the glorious, confusing mythology of the Bible that was an unavoidable part of the package. If my personality remains shaped in any possible way by the dogma of the religion I was born into, even though I don’t classify myself within anymore, it is that part of my personality that so dearly wants to contain every harsh word and action I have for others, that so much more dearly wants no one to feel the slightlest trickle of pain inflicted by a fellow human being. That part of me that strives to act, react, and live in peace as to avoid injurious behaviors to anything or anyone living.
Never have I been or will I be perfect. I still at times have temptations to throw down with a few words or a gesture when driving in the highly emotional space of rush hour traffic, and I did recently have to overthrow a few baby insects that appeared to be cockroaches when they showed up in our clean (very clean! I am clinically obsessive compulsive as well as Feng Shui in regard to cleanliness and organization.) apartment kitchen. Mind you, both types of situations bring me guilt and the reminder that there is room for improvement. I definitely call, as much as possible, upon my ahimsa mantra as I see myself falter in some situation with others, including in trying times of traffic, and as I look to kind options for bug removal when possible–usually a small container of any kind is good for transporting said bug to an outside realm that you might both be more comfortable with. The last spider I escorted out inherited a lovely, fragrant box from strawberry/kiwi hookah tobacco. A win-win situation, I’m guessing.
The word of every day, in any situation, should be ahimsa. It’s a good practice, and like practice implies, it means you take on trial and error and develop a skill and expect skillfulness, not perfection. And most certainly, as with anything you would develop your skills for, you don’t hate, judge, or degrade yourself if you find you are unable to maintain good form every single time. Do not give spiteful words to even your own self in those times when you skip the principles of peace you are compelled to live by and find yourself arguing or otherwise inflicting your negative energies on another fellow living being. Harsh words are harsh words; they are no more productive when we place them on ourselves. Non injury also means non-self-injury.
Practice, practice, practice and you will develop the skill for disagreeing with the least amount of negativity possible. I know I have found this to be true. I have found, most often, with consistent practice, the art of disagreement where unbridled agression is disallowed a takeover and not given the opportunity to bare its pointly little injurious teeth. Ahimsa. Non injury. It helps one find peace in this world. Especially on those days when you realize you are just not going to find a magic portal to perfection and unicorns, so you might as well settle in and get back on the horse. It’s much more real.
“Fae and Unicorn” image courtesy of ElevenstarArt.com, a lovely art blogspot I encountered which shares the art of Rebecca Sinz. http://elvenstarart.blogspot.com/2012/06/unicorn-and-fairy-wip.html
Lyric quotation in paragraph two courtesy of Depeche Mode, “Enjoy the Silence.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMfV0sVQ_VU