Thursday, June 22, 2017

Practice: Ahimsa

It seems quite fitting that I would begin (yet another) resurrection of my blog with an intention that I began my year with. Ahimsa. This concept of nonviolence to all living things was exactly what inspired me to cause less harm and to cultivate more kindness. So I decided that I would mindfully apply this practice to my daily life. And it made a huge difference...

My first step in this new direction was actually my New Year's resolution- to eat a vegetarian diet for an entire year. And how do you think that I prepared for this new "challenge"? Well, I crammed as much BBQ down my throat as I possibly could between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve! Not exactly the point, right? But I haven't gotten to the part where I actually learn something yet, so bear with me.
I decided to start my year off with a hard reset- which to me, of course, was veganism. The toughest of my vegetarian tiers! No meat, no eggs, no dairy. NO CHEESE!!! I didn't even touch honey. And hell yeah, it was tough. My heart is still breaking over that piece of homemade tres leches cake that I had to turn down... 

Not only was the diet tough, but so was my audience! I had people try to trick me into eating something that contained animal products, I had co-workers attempt to shame me for what I had packed for lunch, and I had hot bacon breath blown into my face! ..And so I learned my first real lesson of this new journey-the crab effect. 

If you were to place a bunch of little crabs into a large bowl and one of those little, determined, crabs tried to crawl out of the top- the other crabs would pull her back down instead of pushing her up. That is the crab effect. Kind of sad, right?

That is exactly what these naysayers were trying to do- drag me down instead of cheering me on and offering support. So in continuing my journey to cause less harm, I started to surround myself with encouraging individuals and tuned out the insolence. I found friendships with like-minded yogis and compassion cultivators who had open minds and open hearts (and amazing vegan bean dip recipes.) And my life is better for it.

Next, I realized that most of the excess negativity in my life could be traced back to my job and I knew I had to make a change. Morale had always been low there but with staffing changes and a big move to a new hospital- co-workers were at their all-time worst, and so was I.  I hated my job. And it was starting to show. So instead of experiencing that unnecessary pain of clocking in for a job that I loathed, I found one that I didn't. In fact, I found one that I love. And now I drive to work every day with a smile on my face. 

It was easier to remove the external negativity and harm in my life than it was to decrease the internal harm that I think we all can put ourselves through. I gave up meat pretty easily, I strengthened good friendships, and ended the toxic ones without too much effort. But I was still awfully hard on myself. When I looked in the mirror I usually had something cruel to say to myself, something to critique, or an imperfection to dwell on. So that's what I'm still working on. Every single day. I challenge myself to look for the things I love about myself and I try to appreciate the things that I used to believe made me "imperfect." The world is a much more beautiful place when you realize that you are part of that beauty.

So, sweet reader, I hope that you consider the harmful things you might participate in. Workplace gossip? Eating until you're so full that it hurts? Bad mouthing your "not-so-ready" bikini body? Passive-aggression towards a loved one? We all cause harm, whether we're willing to accept it or not. But I encourage you to acknowledge it, change it, and grow from it. You'll be so glad that you did.

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