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Reflections on Ahimsa from our friend in Alaska

Monica Devine

Monica Devine is an author, photographer, therapist, and baby boomer who lives in Eagle River, Alaska. She also studies and practices yoga – one of the most beneficial practices (spiritual and physical) for women over 50. Today, Monica reminds us of what yoga teaches us about Ahimsa.

Ahimsa means to do no harm; to practice non-violence. When non-violence in speech, thought and action is established, one’s aggressive nature is relinquished, and others abandon hostility in one’s presence.

This is one of the teachings in the Yoga Sutras that I’ve given a great deal of thought to lately. Have you ever noticed how angry speech begets defensive behavior? How violent behavior begets retaliation? We see this on the world stage, between nations and cultures at war with one another. And we also see it on a smaller scale at home with the people we love most.

Explosive anger and negative speech towards another creates a climate of defensiveness and hurt that can last for years. Sticks and stones may break your bones? Sure, but violent and aggressive speech toward another is just as damaging. I remember my sons resorting to shouting matches and highly charged fighting when they were younger, the days when sibling rivalry was intense. This was a highly stressful time for me as a parent; I’d immediately get sucked into their disagreements and feel I had to diffuse the argument with an even louder voice; I had to take control, offer a quick solution, make everything okay again. But in doing so, I was trying to bring about peace in a way that wasn’t, in and of itself, peaceful. So I began to examine these behaviors by practicing staying in the midst of an argument and remaining peaceful inside. By pulling myself aside mentally, breathing deep and slow, and staying consciously aware of the encounter, a neutral ground was established where emotions were not allowed to run amok. Over time, I learned to shape the encounter, rather than control it, and to calmly shift the responsibility for a resolution back on them rather than carry it myself. When I spoke softer, so did they. When I offered and modeled an alternative way to communicate, they responded. This was a huge accomplishment for all of us and took years to hone.

Monica & Mt. Drum

Kind speech begets kind speech. Carrying the thought of peace in our hearts naturally invites a more loving and clearer expression from others. We would do well to remember that families are microcosms of nations. The knowledge and courage required to lay down our sticks and stones and practice daily the essential and vital energy of peace, starts at home, with ourselves.

If you want to hear more about Monica and her life in Alaska where she writes about about art, nature, travel, and more, visit her at her very own blog.

Multi-media piece of my Mom by Monica Devine