The question is not, “Can animals reason?” nor, “Can they talk?” but rather, “Can they suffer?” ~Jeremy Bentham ( British social reformer)
“Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent about the things that matter.” -Dr Martin Luther King
Ahimsa (non-harming) is one of the first limbs (The Yamas) of the Ashtanga yoga eight -limbed path. Ahimsa can be practiced in many ways on and off the mat, beginning with the way you treat yourself. How can you be kinder to yourself during yoga when you can’t do a pose or are having a low energy practice? Every yoga practice can be very different, depending on our energy level, emotional state, what we are eating and drinking, hours of sleep and stress levels, so it’s a good reminder to keep all these things in balance on a daily basis and to not take one of them for granted. Wade’s former teacher, Larry Schultz use to say, “Honor your body, but don’t be lazy!” I love this quote, because we can over do and under do our practice, so it’s good to always do your best and let go of the rest, because as Asthanga Yoga Guru, Pattabhi Jois use to say, “Practice and all is coming!”
Ahimsa towards your health: By eating a plant based vegan diet filled with vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts and legumes we can greatly improve our health and be internally lighter for our yoga practice. A vegan diet is full of fiber, digests easily and will not clog your arteries and compact your colon and intestines with plaque and cholesterol. It’s great for weight loss, lowering cholesterol, blood pressure and preventing cancer and heart disease. Eliminating or reducing alcohol and caffeine in your diet, can help improve liver and kidney function, as well as heighten your true mental/emotional state, instead of depending on chemicals to “boost” your mood. With the reduction of these chemicals (drugs) in our minds, we can also deepen our connection with our loved ones and God.
Ahimsa in our lives: How can you be kinder to yourself when life throws you a curve ball off the mat, such as losing a job or home, gaining weight, illness, acne, financial debt, death of a family member or the end of a relationship? Ahimsa to me, also means giving ourselves a break and cutting ourselves some serious slack, when life is less than we expected for ourselves. This can be a test of faith, so remember to focus on faith and not fear, when these unexpected events occur and to trust that God always has a plan for our lives, so keep praying and asking for guidance and remember, “This too shall pass.” Your yoga and meditation practice can give you the discipline to take care of yourself, no matter your life circumstances, so continue to make it a priority and put God first in your life.
Ahimsa towards the animals: Shockingly 10 BILLION farm animals are slaughtered in the U.S each year, which is heart breaking. From my experience with trying to educate and convert my meat eating Kansas raised family, I have learned that trying to change someone’s eating habits can be like taking away a Linus blanket, not pretty, with a few temper tantrums thrown in, UGH! However, when faced with the question of whether or not to eat meat, if we could all just remember it’s not about satisfying our taste buds, it’s about saving a life and having reverence for all God’s creatures, not just people, cats and dogs. Bottom line, it’s not about us, it’s about them, the 10 billion cows, pigs, chickens and turkeys, who are innocently slaughtered, many times tortured, for human appetite and capital gain. They deserve more and we have the power to give them more by easing their suffering and making more conscious choices about the foods we choose to buy and ingest. There are literally thousands of delicious, healthy food choices that don’t include meat, fish, dairy and eggs. It can take a little more work on our part initially, but it’s worth the effort, knowing an animal’s life was spared, due to our decision to eat a vegan diet. (The Engine 2 Diet www.engine2diet.com, and Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, are two easy and delicious vegan cookbooks to help you get started on the vegan path.)
We can also practice ahimsa towards the animals by getting our pets from animal shelters and rescue groups, instead of buying them from breeders. When people buy their pets from breeders, it means an animal sitting in a shelter somewhere waiting for its’ Forever Home, has a greater chance of being put to sleep.
Animal Testing is unfortunately still occurring with many of the leading drug store products, such as Cover Girl, Dove, Aveeno, Johnson and Johnson, Neutrogena, L’Oreal, Coppertone, Max Factor, Mabelline, Pantene, Redken and Girgio Armani. By not buying these products and putting your money and consumer support towards companies who do not test on animals, you are also helping to ease the suffering of the animal kingdom. Here is a list of companies who DO and DO NOT animal test: http://www.beautyfool.net/which-beauty-brands-companies-do-not-test-on-animals/.
Ahimsa towards the environment: According to the U.S Department of Agriculture, animal agriculture is contributing to more green house gases than cars, trains, planes, and ships combined! It is one of the major causes of the world’s environmental problem such as global warming, air pollution and water and soil contamination. Therefore, eating a vegan diet is also helping to save the environment, in addition to the animals and your health, it’s an ahimsa diet where everyone wins! Recycling, reusing, composting, walking, bicycling, carpooling and carrying your own water bottle are other great ways to practice ahimsa towards the environment and honoring Mother Earth.
Ahimsa in Social Justice: Gandi and Dr. Martin Luther King practiced ahimsa in their homelands by using peaceful means to produce peaceful ends, instead of justifying using violent means to produce a peaceful end. Their means and ends were congruent. These great social reformers lead by example, by walking their talk, without caving into the social pressure of anger and violence.
The people in our lives who are angry, inpatient and upset with us, can many times be our greatest teachers, by giving us an opportunity to practice ahimsa, by being more patient and compassionate towards them. (Maybe God put them in our path to teach us a lesson, not just to piss us off?) These people, many times strangers, are also usually the ones who are needing the most love and attention and their negative behavior towards us, is really on a deeper level, a cry out for more love, not more conflict. Therefore, we always have a choice in life when faced with conflict. If we truly want to experience and witness more peace on the planet, please remember, “PEACE BEGINS WITH ME, “and practice kindness and compassion towards yourself, other people, animals and the planet.
As Gandi so brilliantly said, “”We must BE the change we want to see in the world.”
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