As the holiday season fast approaches, family dynamics come into our awareness front and center. Most try to deny or pretend any discomfort exists, but deep inside our bodies, we feel the tension arising. There are so many ways to describe this not-so-positive physical, emotional and spiritual discomfort. Most will agree that the holidays are always stress-filled. So how do we navigate harmony versus disharmony within ourselves as well as with others?
First step, it’s best to understand who’s looking back at us in the mirror before we’re able to go out and consciously live the harmonious life we seek. I decided to look into the Hindu Sutras for a little support, and found a nice surprise. During my yoga teacher certification I was exposed to The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Fascinated by them, I looked for ways to apply these different aspects of unity into my life. And as for understanding the mirror of the mind and looking for ways to navigate stressful interactions with loved ones, studying the Sutras can lead you to the inner guide, called your true self.
The Sutras of Patanjali outlines the eight limbs of yoga. The first is called the Yamas, which are guidelines for social behavior. Within the Yamas exists five encouragements regarding how to interact with the outside world. The first is called Ahimsa. If you take some time to study and absorb the concept of Ahimsa, then you’ll have a more accurate mirror of your true self.
To understand Ahimsa, you must understand the root, himsa, which means “injustice” or “cruelty.” Now, when we apply himsa to our normal way of being, one would never say that they intend to treat anyone in an unjust or cruel way. But at the end of the day, tensions arise and we cause much harm. So back to ahimsa. This yama means more than the opposite of violence. The power behind ahimsa is the idea that you positively arm yourself mentally, spiritually and even physically with intentions of love, harmony and peace.
Being kind, friendly and having thoughtful consideration before you speak is at the core of ahimsa. It also applies to how we treat ourselves. This yama asserts that we have a duty and responsibility to ourselves and others to act in ways that ensures everyone will feel loved and respected in your presence.
Recently, I heard about four guidelines to help you navigate ahimsa. But before you go there, you must first be committed to the process, which usually means taking a pause before you react to anything anyone says that might ruffle your feathers. Consider: 1. Will your reply be kind? 2. Is it necessary? 3. Is it thoughtful? and 4. Does it improve upon silence?
Now this doesn’t mean to be a rouge Pollyanna. That’s not what this yama is about. Ultimately, ahimsa is about embracing a new way of being, so you can experience a shift in your interactions with others. Not only will you begin to feel more connected to others, but they’ll begin to feel more connected to you. And hey, guess what? That’s actually the whole point of yoga — unity.
In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the yamas help us get to inner peace and love by first affecting positive change in our relationships with others. But to really get to the love we all seek, the sutras give many insights on how to achieve this.
Sutra 1, 3 states: “Then the Seer (Self) abides in its own nature.” Sri Swami Satchidananda translating the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali states that: “The true you is always the same, but you appear to be distorted or mixed up with the mind. By making the mind clean and pure, you feel you have gone back or you appear to have gone back to your original state.”
Now from this state of the true self, the sutras guide you to understand this state exists always, even when a lot of mud, accusations, tension, misunderstandings and sadness are covering it … it’s still there. The true self does no harm and exists to live in harmony with other humans and nature.
So you see, it’s your perception of the reflection that can alter depending upon how clean or muddy your mind is. When you are filled with self-doubt, fear or even selfishness, these clouds prevent you from seeing, witnessing and engaging your true self.
Why do we choose disharmony and a muddy mind over clarity, serenity and true peace? Perhaps it’s from painful experiences from our past in which we interpreted events too personally. Meaning, it’s hard to see ourselves as anything other than the culmination of our experiences in life, right? But I want to encourage you to flip that understanding upside down.
In Don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The Four Agreements” he says we can get to a balanced life by operating from four basic agreements. Two of which are: “Don’t take anything personally” and “Don’t make assumptions.” Committing to these two foundational principles of operation, we uncover a direct pathway back to embracing our true nature, which is loving, kind and harmonious. Most arguments happen because our ego gets involved and takes everything personally. And as for assumptions, where do I start? Rarely is an assumption correct, so why even bother going there. This is where choice and preparation is so important.
Usually family events and outings with friends are planned ahead of time, so I want to give you some homework. If you are struggling emotionally with someone you know you’re going to have contact with, then find some quiet time to really meditate on the experience you want to have. Focus on your true nature, which is clean, clear and has a direct pathway to experience the loving interaction you seek with anyone, even the relative or friend that gets under your skin. Time to pull that grudging feeling like a splinter and put the bandaid of acceptance, peace and neutrality on.
With these tools in your sturdy survival belt, I encourage you to fully embrace the power of possibility that this holiday season can be different. With compassionate communication with our loved ones, we can begin to see any dirt they throw at us is actually, deep at its core, just a real desire to be loved. Miscommunication is at the heart of 90 percent of our emotional pain. Whether the slinger of the mud is aware or not, deep within their true self, they really don’t intend to hurt you. I encourage you to detach from an expected outcome and just love. Don’t react. Respond. Don’t take anything personally or assume others hold ill will toward you. Begin there.
Alight my dear yogis, what will be your decision for this holiday season? Harmony or disharmony? You choose.
Interested in more content like this? Get social with us:
- Uniting for Joy on a rainy morning in Seattle - Dec 21, 2015
- Here is what you can do to bring kindness to the world - Aug 24, 2015
- 4 keys to success through high-powered connections - Jun 30, 2015