Ahimsa: Non-Violence. Cause no injury, do no harm. Maintain compassion towards yourself and others.
I learned about Ahimsa about a year ago, while studying the Yamas and Niyamas during my yoga teacher training. For many folks, it may first appear to sound obvious and redundant.
Of course, we should be non-violent. We should not hurt or injure other people. We should not treat animals cruelly. It is not right to pit dogs or roosters against each other, to fight for sport.
However, Ahimsa means different things to different people. For some, it means being vegan or vegetarian (not killing or using animals as a means for human consumption.)
Others may be ok with eating a steak at a restaurant, but they would never hurt a domesticated dog they saw wandering the street. There are many ways to incorporate ahimsa into one’s daily life, and I’m not here to judge people’s actions or say whose right and wrong.
The reason I’m thinking about Ahimsa is because I have snails on my mind.
About this time last year, I was tending to my succulent garden, and I noticed holes appearing in the leaves of some of my plants. I found some of the slimy culprits affixed onto the leaves of one of my aloe plants.
Slimy, sticky little things, which as a general rule of thumb, are not good for cultivated gardens. My natural reaction was to pluck the little buggers from my garden and toss them out into the street. I didn’t do this to be mean. I don’t have any personal vendetta against the slow-moving little brown critters. But I did want them out of my garden. I wanted them to leave my pretty little succulents alone.
But there I was, with Yamas and Niyamas and all sorts of yogic principles, floating around in my head as I gardened. I found myself feeling reluctant to toss them out onto the asphalt to either die for the force of their landing or be crushed by the next car that whizzed past. But they couldn’t stay in my succulent garden either!
So, I started gently using my thumb and forefinger to pluck them up by the shell, and walk them away from the garden, out to that little patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street. I’d set them down in the grass, wish them the best of luck, and feverishly hope that they wouldn’t find their way back to my succulents.
It seemed like such a small, trivial thing, yet it was significant to me because I could feel a shift and a change happening within myself.
By no means, do I live the “perfect” yogic lifestyle (not even close!), but the more I strive to “live my yoga” I am aware of the changes taking place within myself, subtle as they might be. This doesn’t mean everything is all sunshine and rainbows!
A year later, I find myself still passively feuding with the slimy little pests. I don’t hate the little things. Maybe I should, because they munch up the lovely plants I spend my time and efforts tending to. They are not beneficial (to my garden) in any way; they are just pests!
Yet, I see them out early in the morning after a (rare) heavy rainfall the night before. Slowly inching across the dirt, leaving barely visible silvery trails behind them. Their dewy, translucent flesh, so fragile looking, stretching out from their perfectly spiraled, strurdy little shells. Their little antenna-eye things perked up (looking?) at me curiously.
They’re kind of cute in a way.
Then lo and behold—last night, by chance I stumbled upon some breath-taking images of snails! Colorful, unique little creatures, with amazing spirals swirled around their shells!
The photos were taken by Ukrainian photographer Vyacheslav Mishchenko. He used macro-photography to capture images—photos of snails just living their regular day-to-day lives, yet somehow he makes them appear nearly magical.
These beautiful images portray the garden pests in a completely different light!
Click here to view more; my favorite is the two snails on the cherries, reaching towards each other for a kiss!
As for the snails in my garden, I’ll continue to practice Ahimsa and keep plucking them up and carrying them away.
I’ll keep striving to peacefully co-exist, and I will remain curious about the magical, secret lives of snails.
Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons