In my 200-hour yoga teacher training, I learned about “ahimsa” or non-violence in thought, word and deed. I remember thinking to myself, “I’m not a violent person. In fact, I lean more towards pacifist.” Yet, something within me made me think again.
I started paying attention to my thoughts. I was shocked. I was unconscious of all of the negative self-talk that occupied my mind. Worse, it was on-going. I couldn’t believe how mean, belittling, judgmental and critical I was of myself. Then I started noticing how critical and judgmental I was of others, both in my mind and in my words. Next, I became aware at how my actions reflected this violence in my impatience, curtness, ignoring people, withholding my love when I didn’t get my way, viewing people as enemies.
This whole way of living was exhausting and completely contradictory to yoga. I had embraced and embodied my suffering. As a result, I repelled the people I wanted to be more like and attracted the people that suffered like I did. Something had to give.
As I started to explore why I thought and acted as I did, I realized that some behaviors are learned, passed down generationally, through culture, society, religion and school. While, some are learned out of reaction as a way to belong and feel safe and loved. Breaking through these thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors takes courage. To break free, I had to think differently than every way I’d been taught. I had no idea what that would mean to my life. I just knew I had to try.
First, I became conscious of my thoughts. When I would catch myself, I would try to challenge to belief and re-story. If I was criticizing myself, for example, I would ask if it were true or not. Then I would try to figure out why I thought that way. Finally, I would choose better words. Instead of, “You’re so stupid!” when I would misplace my keys, I would say, “This is a reminder to be mindful of where I leave my keys.” The judgement came from my own insecurity and expectations to be perfect.
As I started treating myself with more kindness, respect, and dignity, I noticed my temperament calmed. When I caught myself losing patience, for example, in traffic or in a long line, I would gently remind myself to focus on my breath. This gave me time to be more mindful of my breathing. I would start trying to elevate my energy as an experiment to see if I could influence the energy around me without ever saying a word. It works.
I started treating strangers with kindness more frequently. I’d smile more. I would try to engage the people who were serving me in restraints, cafes, and shops. I was nicer to telemarketers, too. The most impactful change came in my closest relationships. I quit blaming others for how I felt. I owned my feelings. This decreased arguments significantly and made my relationships far more pleasant. I even started attracting a different group of friends who were more in alignment with the direction I was headed. Continue reading >>