If you’ve ever been to a class at CMYW, then you have probably heard the Sanskrit word Ahimsa. As the first Yama, it is basically our secondary studio motto. It is translated roughly as non-harming or non-violence.We often use it as a way to show our students not to go “too far” with their bodies and to respect their boundaries while still learning to find their edge and grow. Ahimsa is also why you find a lot of yogi vegetarians who don’t kill insects; both considered non-harming practices. Ahimsa though, is broader than that. It trickles into every area of our life, our body, our spirit, and how we enter the world. It is also often said that it applies to thought, word and deed.
I recently had a birthday and engaged in some personal life review, as often happens around birthdays and the turn of a new year. At first, I found myself completely ignoring Ahimsa, being harsh and harming in my thoughts and words towards myself. The negativity towards myself in thought, word and deed, was subtle but often times it was glaring. I examined this a little further to get to the root of it and I found it to be linked with some specific behavior that I am always monitoring but not always taking action around, my technology use. I found that after I spent time on social media (which honestly I have to do for work, but can often get sidetracked), my ahimsa in thought went out the window, towards myself, towards others, towards the world. My negative self talk peak for the day was after scrolling through everyone’s highlight reel. This put me on notice, so for the day of my birthday, when I arguably have more tech contact than any other day of the year, I decided to go tech free. “Tech free?? Is that even possible?” you say.
I haven’t been tech free in nearly two years. I was able to pinpoint this exactly because the last time I was 100% tech free was when I was in the Mongolian countryside completely cut off from the world. I remember thinking then that it would be really hard to be out of contact, “disconnected,” but the truth is, it wasn’t. After the first few hours, I settled in and got connected with myself instead. I listened, I used all of my senses to experience the wonder around me, I enjoyed the people around me more. The same thing happened this time as well. Honestly, my technology use is a lot higher than it was two years ago, but it still had the same effect. I was able to reach back in and listen to myself instead of the external forces that are always beckoning me by a little red dot, a ding and a number on a screen.
I found that I started practicing Ahimsa more easily and with fluidity. I felt relief knowing that my phone was off. My thoughts settled down. I was able to focus, I got a lot done. I was kinder to myself and to others I met throughout the day. I was less frazzled. I was more open. It was a gift.
Let me be clear, this was just one day. One that I had prepared for by announcing I was going tech free, making sure all of my emails were under control, (as was my work). But it was still possible. It’s also possible for shorter periods of time, just enough to give you a reset. Lately, I have found more and more people taking on choices like this. Some go tech free for a day each week, while others take social media “cleanses.” It’s not an obvious choice when our brains start to crave that “connection” but it is worth considering as part of an Ahimsa practice.
Ahimsa can be practiced in all areas of life, and especially in places you don’t always expect like this one. Take some time out of your day to examine where you could use some ahimsa practice in your life today.
Practice: You can practice Ahimsa in all your Asana and Meditation practice. Restorative postures also promote this self kindness, self care and non-harming.
If you’d like to learn more about mindful technology use, join me at my workshop, Tech Timeout: Methods for Mindfulness in a Digital Age, on April 8th at 1:00 pm. We’ll examine our technology use, each make a personal mindfulness plan, practice restorative yoga, tech neck stretching and guided meditation.