Emotional Ahimsa (non-harming)

ahimsa, non harming

Ahimsa is a sanskrit word meaning “non- harming”. It is the first of the 5 Yamas (guidelines for living a fulfilling life). Non-harming does not only apply in the physical sense, it also applies to our thoughts and emotions.

Therefore, hateful, unkind thoughts and words about others or yourself cause harm and violate ahimsa. Taking time to focus on this can make us aware of how critical we really can be.

When anger, resentment, or any other negative emotion is felt the ego tends jump in and place blame, wanting to be right. The ego says, “You did this, and now I feel bad”. This often results in lashing out and causing harm in some way back at that person or later with someone else.

We have a choice to step back, practice Ahimsa, and process our emotions. You can step back and connect with your true self, often called the witness, awareness, or consciousness. It is our stable, permanent self.

The witness is a deeper part of you that has always been there. It is the awareness that notices our thoughts, actions, emotions, and feelings. It can watch without picking sides.

To connect with this deeper sense of who we really are, it may help to clarify who we are not. We often identify with our emotions, thoughts, or our bodies but that is not who we truly are.

  • We are not our emotions. They are things we feel due to our perspective at the time.
  • We are not our thoughts. They come and go, often randomly, and change constantly.
  • We are also not our bodies. It is merely a shell that changes constantly in many ways from conception to old age.

The true self is the consciousness that can witness your body, mind, and emotions. The more you identify yourself with your inner witness, the freer you become.

This inner witness can empower us when in a situation that triggers strong emotion. We can step back rather than being led by our thoughts and emotions. Our inner witness is detached, not needing to win a battle, not needing to skew the facts to make us right.

From this place we can give space to our emotions and allow ourselves to feel our feelings until we can discern what they are truly about and where they are coming from. Giving space to negative emotions is not the same as feeding them by ruminating about injustices or retelling the story. Let the story go and focus on the feelings. Ask yourself ‘what beliefs are causing these feelings?’. We can explore our beliefs and ask how we can see the situation more clearly. By taking this time to inquire within, we are more able to respond with love rather than react. We can actually be thankful for such situations to show us where we have fears, issues and attachments.