In our yoga practice, this translates into one simple meaning – sensitivity. Through the practice of sensitivity we are engaging in the constant flow of listening and responding. Without the act of sensitivity in our practice we are really not practicing yoga.
With an intention of non-harming or non-violence towards ourselves we can create a very present, open state of being when we practice. If our critical mind or our lazy mind or our victim mind etc comes up, we have the opportunity to allow that to occur with compassion and adjust our practice (adjust our mind, body, breath) to shift to a more accepting space.
There is a simple process, offered by the Hawaiian Ho’oponopono technique that I recently became aware of. This process involves saying 4 simple phrases to yourself: “I love you. Sorry. Please forgive me. Thankyou” to neutralise harmful and negative actions, thoughts and words. The phrase is directed solely at yourself and your part in whatever friction is occurring to effectively be neutralised. A large part of the Ho’oponopono process is that no matter what the issue – you take 100% responsibility for whatever part of you has brought this issue to you. Through this simple but effective practice – the practice of Ahimsa – radical shifts can occur.
One amazing example of this practice:
In the 1980’s an experienced practitioner of the Ho’oponopono process and psychologist, Dr Hew Len, spent 3 years working in a high security psychiatric facility unit in Hawaii working with mentally ill criminals. Violence in the unit was a regular occurance by patients against patients and patients against staff. Unfortunately, this meant patients were often restrained with wrist and ankle restraints.
During his time at the unit, Dr Hew Len did not see patients as clients personally; rather he sat with their individual files and went through a process of clearing whatever it was that came up for him personally while reading their files, using the Ho’oponopono process of “I love you. Sorry. Please forgive me. Thankyou”.
Without treating anyone in person, only through practicing the Ho’oponopono process Dr Hew Len healed many of the patients. At the time he left his position, violence in the hospital was no longer a problem, the use of restraints were no longer necessary, patients got better or were greatly improved, security became less of an issue and patients were able to engage in sporting activities outside of the unit. General well being of staff increased enormously and with that good will within the workplace. All from Dr Lew effectively practicing Ahimsa.
Holding an intention of non-violence towards yourself and others day to day is taking your yoga off the mat into life. Observe yourself on and off the mat; If someone is pushing your buttons, check in with what you’re thinking and notice if your thoughts may be more damaging to you than that person’s actions. Observe the changes in your life when you shift harmful or violent thoughts, actions and words to an intention of Ahimsa.
Reference for Ho’oponopono: Vitale, J, Zerolimits, 2007.