Monday, May 4, 2009

Yama, Yama

I was running late. A session with a client had gone over, and I now barely had enough time to get to my hair appointment. 

As I rushed to the car, a fierce wind whipped a bag of cough drops from my hastily closed purse. As they landed on the pavement, I stomped down just as the wind lifted them again. Thus began a rather silly dance across the parking lot, though its humor was lost on me.

Finally in the car with cough drops secured, I found myself behind a woman driving with excruciating slowness. Until, that is, she came to a complete stop in the middle of the road, for no reason I could fathom. As I passed, I flashed an irritated look her way.
I arrived home, burst through the door to grab the checkbook I’d forgotten that morning, and immediately began grumbling about the wind, which had battered me again between car and kitchen. 

And then I saw my husband’s face. And I stopped.

Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term that is translated simply as non~harming. There is nothing, however, simple about living this tenet. Ahimsa is one of the five yamas, or ethical precepts, delineated in Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga. 

Non~harming means more than abstaining from physical violence. Ahimsa entails refraining from all types of harmful thinking and behavior. Mahatma Gandhi described the practice of ahimsa as aiming toward, “complete freedom from ill~will and anger and hate, and an overflowing love for all.”

No easy task. In the ten minutes between office and kitchen, I’d missed the mark three separate times. I had chosen annoyance and spewed it through my own psyche and out into the world around me. I hadn’t been aware of this choice. It was only as I watched the initial joy on my husband’s face at my unexpected arrival home fade into something a bit more guarded that I realized what I was doing.

Disregarding another yama is what had led me astray. Aparigraha translates as non~grasping. On a basic level, aparigraha refers to not accumulating possessions or holding onto them too tightly. However, non~grasping can also refer to how we hold attitudes and beliefs as well.

I’d had my agenda, you see. I knew the wind shouldn’t blow so wildly, the woman oughtn’t to drive so slowly, and I mustn’t be late for my appointment. I was attached to the way I believed things ought to be, disgruntled that life was not conforming to my expectations. In each instance, I harmed myself a bit and offered unpleasantness to the world around me.

Living the yamas brings us to a profound truth. As we free ourselves from negativity of whatever ilk, we are better able to touch life as it is. Its rich textures, its small miracles, and the face of Spirit become more palpable, less obscured by our own projections. As we grow in acceptance of what is, we engage more harmoniously with our environment. Whatever we find is ours to do, the yamas will point us toward the most effective and graceful internal approach to the task.

So, what did I do once I woke up to my options? With full awareness, I looked into my husband’s eyes, greeted him warmly, and apologized for grousing. We embraced for a few moments. And then I was out the door again.

Incidentally, I arrived for my haircut on time~~and with spirit intact!

I wish you well over the coming week as you greet what life brings your way.


Loanne Marie 


Anonymous said...

I recently began reading your articles. Your more recent article about Ahimsa and Aparigraha connected with ideas that have been swimming around my conscious and sub-conscious reality. Admittedly, never in a cohesive and easy to understand manner as expressed in your most recent column.

I appreciate your skill in writing about your work, beliefs, philosophy, etc.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience. I look forward to reading your future articles, essays, etc.

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and to send such a kind comment.

I'm glad the topics of Ahimsa and Aparigraha resonated for you. Isn't it funny how thoughts can be simmering just below the surface, waiting for something in our environment to ignite them? Ideas like wood laid in a fireplace grate awaiting a match.

I look forward to more comments from you in the weeks to come. Or perhaps sooner, if you decide to share your experience with the yamas in your own life!

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Leia Marie