Loving Yourself with Ahimsa
This year, instead of resolutions, I am setting monthly intentions. Each month, I choose a word or phrase to represent something I want to work on in my own life. For the month of February, I have chosen ahimsa. Ahimsa, one of the yamas, is the concept of non-violence. At the simplest level, practicing ahimsa means to practice kindness for all things.
Many of us find it simple to practice kindness for others, but then we forget to show that same kindness to ourselves. We listen to the negative inner voice that likes to tell us that we aren’t enough, and then we believe it. This creates a violence in our own mind and body towards ourselves. We drive ourselves to work harder, do more, and maybe buy products we don’t need to make us feel better about ourselves. But there is never enough, and over time we wear our bodies, minds and souls down, sometimes to the point of exhaustion. We experience aches and pains and symptoms of this stress, but we continue on the same path, unable to see that we are creating our own reality. At the same time, we may be giving little pieces of ourselves to others, trying to find the love we aren’t providing to ourselves. We are seeking validation that we are enough from outside sources, when what we really need is within us.
Kindness for ourselves begins by thinking loving thoughts about ourselves. When you notice your inner monologue cataloging your faults, stop and think about all the wonderful things you bring to this world. Each of us contributes something, and turning that negative self-talk into something positive will make you feel just a bit better.
Another way to practice kindness for ourselves is to practice self-care every day. If you haven’t already, establish a few self-care tasks that you can practice every day. This could be putting down the electronics and reading for 15-20 minutes each day, meditating, journaling or taking a short walk. Find 1-2 things that make you feel better, and include them in your day every day.
Sometimes showing kindness to ourselves requires a little tough love. So many times, we may continue to put off tasks because they are uncomfortable, or we think we have to complete a big project all at once. Or maybe we have such a long to do list that we can’t decide where to start, so we instead choose to escape into social media or television. Eventually, we feel guilty and begin to beat ourselves up for not being able to complete these tasks. When I begin to find myself in this cycle, I like to take a few grounding breaths, and then make a physical list of all the things I want to get done. If a task seems daunting, or I only have a short time, I try to break off a small task I can do right now. Generally, that little bit of momentum allows me to return to the task later, and to stop feeling overwhelmed.
Allowing ourselves opportunities to rest and providing our bodies with nourishing food is also an act of kindness to ourselves. When our bodies have rested and receive good fuel, we feel strong and capable. Our mind is better able to stay positive, and our general outlook on life is improved.
This month, in order to show kindness to myself, I am committing to these three tasks every day:
meditating 10 minutes every day,
at least 15 minutes of mindful movement every day