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Loving-kindness to oneself and non-harming to heal.
When I find myself in two different courses with homework from each, what should I do?
I combine them.
In October 2020, I took a self-paced course the Elephant Academy offers, on maitri—a type of self-care, but more. Maitri is loving-kindness to oneself and being your own friend, even the parts you find ugly in various ways.
I am on my third time taking it; it’s that important.
In September 2021, I entered Kripalu’s Foundation of Ayurveda school, the first 200 hours of their 650-hour Ayurveda Health Counselor program, and I was also required to take the 300-hour ayurveda and yoga teacher training.
I have homework in the Academy to write about maitri. Tuesday evening, as our Kripalu session on yoga philosophy wrapped up the beginning of the yamas (ethical, moral principles), we were asked to pick one of the five yamas and explore it, mentally and in action.
The yamas are the first limb of yoga’s eight limbs, according to Patanjali in his yoga sutras. If you are on the path of yoga, the postures you practice are limb number three. That’s for another day.
The yamas are how we conduct ourselves in society. I need to add here: the correct way.
In both Sanskrit and English, the five yamas, in order are:
- Ahimsa, or non-harming
- Satya, or truthfulness
- Asteya, or non-stealing
- Brahmacarya, or energy management
- Aparigraha, or non-attachment.
Each of these can be topics of much more depth. The above is the Cliff Notes version—but let’s explore the first, ahimsa, or non-harming.
The first thing that may come to mind is: do not murder someone—good place to start. But physical harm can come in many forms: for example, accidentally running a cyclist off the road on a dark, stormy night. In my personal opinion, as a gentle activist vegan, harming comes from slaughtering all from the animal kingdom, including factory farming, injecting animals with drugs to fatten them up, and separating young calves from the mom immediately. (Though, I do know there are farmers who raise happy cows and egg layers.)
Harm from speech: screaming at the frazzled overworked server who did not bring your drink in 10 seconds, or speaking in a condescending manner to your spouse, children, siblings, parents, friends, neighbors, teachers, or anyone. Gossiping in nasty ways, making assumptions when talking to folks, and spreading false statements.
And do not get me started on the bullying behavior on social media.
But what is the tie-in with maitri?
We also harm ourselves in a number of ways. A few that come to mind are hating on yourself for your looks or not being able to carry a tune. For being afraid of speaking in front of a crowd at a packed lecture hall. For being too short, too tall, too heavy, too skinny, too chatty, too shy, too broke, too undereducated, or even too educated.
I will leave out the more serious ones. Those are better addressed by others with the knowledge of trauma, abuse, A.C.E. (adverse childhood events), and the other alphabet-soup ones.
Loving yourself sounds selfish to some at first glance. However, there is the often-used analogy of the oxygen mask. Before we can help others, we need to first help ourselves to be able to be there, healthy, strong, and in ready mode to help our children, parents, partners, and friends.
Where to start, we wonder? Meditation.
There are numerous ways to meditate, and it may not be the path to choose for some. However, for me, finding a way to sit or walk, with exploration, is a key way to center. I also find that taking some time in my morning routine to quiet myself, give gratitude, send love, let the thoughts roam, and to focus on my breath is a way to find the love inside me.
And I spend my day trying to extend love to all of Momma Earth, and practice maitri and ahimsa in action. I am a continual work in progress, and that’s okay.
Give love to yourself
Then extend that love to others
All of Momma Earth
No harm to any being…
human, animals to the trees, and bees,
to the flowers and insects
And first, no harm to yourself.