The Urban Yoga Den

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Ahimsa Now: 100 Days of Intention April 6, 2012

Beautifully hopeful mural in my neighborhood.

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In a recent blog entry, I mentioned “Ahimsa Now” – my idea for a non-profit organization whose mission is to use yoga and related practices to address emotional pain and increase inner peace in at-risk youth and those that serve them, consequently decreasing violence in at-risk communities.

When I called my friend Ronni to tell her about this long-envisioned, presently hibernating dream, she responded, “Sounds like it’s time for another 100-day ritual!”  She’s referring to last year’s “Happy Heart Project,” during which I awoke each morning between August 28th & December 5th, lit a stick of incense, and affirmed: “My intention today is to grow toward joy.”  My main takeaway after 100 days?  I grew to embrace that there are no goals, only intentions – reinforced frequently, through a process of openness, willingness, action and growth.

Equally as important – I came to profoundly accept, appreciate and stop apologizing for my humanness.  Now that’s a happy heart.

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Ronni joined me in last year’s Happy Heart Project, burning her incense and meditating on her own intention.

So here we are again, launching a deliberate, one-day-at-a-time journey toward July 13th.  This time around, I am simply saying, “Ahimsa Now” as I light my incense.  “Ahimsa” is a Sanskrit word meaning, “Avoidance of Violence.”  It is mentioned in many ancient texts, including the Yoga Sutras, a collection of aphorisms handed down by yogic sage Patanjali.  In the Sutras, Ahimsa is one of the “Yama” – five recommended abstentions, or rules of conduct rooted in abstinence.

Ahimsa is a principle that I aim toward every breathing moment.  It can manifest in many ways – not causing emotional harm for others through gossip or careless remarks; not taking my bad day out on those around me; not harming my own body by practicing unmindful yoga; not harming my own heart by insulting myself; and on and on.

Avoidance of something takes great effort.  And if violence were not naturally inherent in human beings, we wouldn’t have to try to avoid it.  So, dreaming of launching a nonprofit whose mission is rooted in Ahimsa, my responsibility is to come to understand the human impulse toward violence, and, to explore every available practice that impedes that impulse.

Let the exploration begin.

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What are the alternatives to violence?  Luckily, yoga offers many; and I will write about them this April, during which my Monthly Focus for yoga classes is “Peace.”

More will most certainly be revealed.

OM Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.  Peace, Peace, Peace.