How Not Doing My Homework Was “Doing My Homework” … Ahimsa and Taking the Most Peaceful Path

{Photo Credit :: juxtapost.com}

I’ve got to admit, it’s been a rough week. We were warned that re-entry into the world might be hard after spending an entire weekend wrapped within the safe warm cocoon that is Teacher Training at It’s All Yoga … yet, I still wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead.

Life hit me on all fronts: I wasn’t feeling well physically. I was extra swamped at work. Then there was the yoga school homework – reading, writing, practicing, thinking, observing … a long list of tasks that I was oh so excited to work though, but oh so hard pressed to find any time or energy to devote to completing. And — the cherry on top — yesterday was moving day.

When I was faced with the reality of what lay ahead for me this week, my knee-jerk reaction was that I was going to do it all. You see, “perfectionist” has been my M.O. for years. For most of my life, my motto was something along the lines of “get it all done perfectly” — and I took that motto seriously.

There was a time when I would have pushed through: sacrificing sleep to stay up until 4 a.m. doing homework, skipping lunch to cram in an extra hour of work, and staying at work until 9 p.m., completely ignoring my personal well-being and self-care needs. But this week we’re studying ahimsa (nonviolence) in teacher training, and somewhere around Wednesday I had to pause from my frantic habitual “doing” and remember/accept — yet again — that my “get it all done perfectly” approach is truly a form of violence in my life.

Let’s take a step back for a moment: what is ahimsa?

Ahimsa is the first of five yamas (restraints) in Patanjali’s eight limbed Raja Yoga path outlined in The Yoga Sutras. According to Judith Lasater, the yamas provide us with basic guidelines for how to live life in a way that will lead to both personal fulfillment and benefit to society, but are “not presented in an attempt to control behavior based on moral imperatives” — rather, as a reminder that “if we choose certain behavior we get certain results.”

To me ahimsa is about so much more than physical violence (wars, fist fights, and the like). For most of us (perhaps all of us), our words, thoughts, and actions provide an extremely rich and nuanced source of ahimsa study (read: they unfortunately contain oh so many instances of violence).

Where does violence show up in my life?

I don’t know about you, but I am confronted by the opportunity to choose violence nearly every moment of every day:

I could go on and on …

Choosing nonviolence.

To me, practicing ahimsa is about having a never ending series of choices. It is something we do over and over and over again, every moment of every single day. It is both:

  • The enduring power we have to choose the least violent option, and
  • The endless amount of compassion we have for ourselves and others when we predictably do not always choose that least violent option (second arrows).

And the beauty of practicing ahimsa is that when I remember to choose the nonviolent path — even when I choose to perform just a small subtle nonviolent act, such as starting my day by eating a nutritious breakfast — it can have a profound impact on my day, and on the lives of the people I happen to come into contact with that day.

Ahimsa in action (aka “ahimsa ate my homework”).

This week I was confronted with a choice about how to handle my inability to complete all of the homework for teacher training. I desperately wanted there to be more hours in the day and more days in the week, so that I could get it all done perfectly, but that simply wasn’t going to happen. It took me a few days to get there, but ultimately I realized that letting myself off the hook (being okay with the fact that I would not be doing all of my assigned work), was actually truly “doing my homework” (practicing ahimsa). And as soon as I embraced this nonviolent/more peaceful option, I felt as though a heavy weight was lifted from my shoulders and like I could breathe again.

13 comments

  1. OMG, so true! Beating ourselves up because we are not perfect is anti-ahimsa-in-action. I’m right there with you. Here’s another one: I am so intimidated by your entertaining, thoughtful blogs that I’m too self-conscious to publish my own. I am my own enemy harshly judging myself and violating loving thoughts about myself.

    1. Oh believe me, I get that one too. It took me years to get started blogging, then once I started this blog, there were several months of AGONIZING about whether my thoughts were worthy of being shared more publicly (i.e., not just with one or two trusted teachers/friends), and even now every single time I hit “publish” I have to “do it scared.” I’m so very flattered that you think my blog is entertaining and thoughtful (seriously, thank you for saying that), but our TT dialogue would be super dull if only one voice was doing all the talking. I can’t stress enough how much I look forward to reading everyone else’s thoughts about this crazy adventure we’re on together! (And, I’m more than happy to offer my technical assistance services, if you need help getting your blog up and running smoothly! :)) xoxo

      1. *like* both on the post and this comment of yours, especially the “do it scared” part. I feel like that too each time I hit PUBLISH. ;) :)

  2. Beautifully said. Thank you!

    1. Thank YOU for reading and commenting! :)

  3. i never thought about choices in this way, but it is true that we commit a sort of violence against ourselves in seeking perfection. I am a reformed perfectionist, my interest in being a good mother over-rode my need for perfection.

  4. This is such a comprehensive response to the question of how Ahimsa plays out in your (our) life, I think you definitely did your homework! And, yes, I would love some technical tips on blogging. Looking forward to our next weekend together with all our TT colleagues.

    1. Thanks Holly! Of course what immediately comes to mind is: “okay, now I just need to read the rest of our packet, listen to the yoga matrix cd, read about Atha, review the anatomy stuff, complete the asana reference sheets, oh yeah, and complete two weeks worth of home practice … I can TOTALLY cram all that into the next four days!” But, I’m resisting that urge and remembering, yet again, to choose nonviolence. :)) And as for the technical blogging tips, let me know when you’d like to get together (or send me your questions via email) – I’m totally happy to help!

  5. Madeleine · · Reply

    Beautifully thought out, well put. You get an “A” on your homework from me, for what that’s worth!

    1. Awe, thanks Madeline!! <3

  6. Reblogged this on My Best Self Challenge and commented:
    Preach.

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