Yoga and Anger

Over the years, as part of my personal practice and path of spiritual expansion, I've dabbled on and off in the realm of anger. This hasn't always been easy for me and there were plenty of times it was more off than on. Let's face it, we're not often encouraged to feel fully into our anger. However, I have come to 100% embrace the importance of being in touch with my anger as means of connecting to my full self and my full range of human emotions, as well as improving my relationships. (Yes, it's true! That is possible!)

So often we're given messages that we should hide our anger, that it is an emotion to be feared or ashamed of. In fact, when I was looking for a good quote on anger for this newsletter, most of them were about the harmful nature of anger, or that "anger is one letter short of danger" (Eleanor Roosevelt). We relegate feelings such as anger to the "shadows" and try to pretend that we can (and should) overcome our anger or grow past it.

But I disagree with this strategy. Through my own work in this area and from reading on the topic, I have a much different lens now that I did when I was growing up. By shutting down our anger and not giving it full expression we are shutting down a part of our heart. We are telling that part of us that it's not OK to feel what we're feeling. We slowly erode trust in ourselves and our own emotional experience in the world. And when we shut down one part of our heart (e.g. anger) we automatically shrink the total range of what we can feel, including love.

If we can't trust ourselves when we're angry, how can we trust ourselves when we're in love?

Shutting down our anger can also lead to pain and tension in the physical body, even disease. The energy of emotions that do not have free expression is turned inward. Unexpressed anger can lead to depression. Research bears this out, note some of the highlighted findings in the Atlantic Monthly's recent feature article on anger. Writes the author - "The ratio of beneficial to harmful consequences was about 3 to 1 for angry persons." In other words, people who felt and expressed their anger had more positive life outcomes.

Indeed the topic is so salient that NPR has devoted a special series to anger this month, which you can listen to here.

Contrary to what we're often told, it is by being truly present to our anger that we can learn more about ourselves, experience our heart's full capacity, and start to show up more fully in our relationships, no longer hiding parts of ourselves. When we shine light on the emotions in the shadows, then we can learn how to integrate them and become more fully ourselves.

This isn't to say that we need to go around yelling at people all the time to set loose our anger, but there is a real need to find healthy means of expression for our anger so that we can learn from it, move through it, and transform the energy it contains.

And that's one big reason I'm offering my upcoming Yoga and Anger workshop. This workshop will provide an embodied experience of connecting with and expressing anger in a safe and healthy way. Plus, we will have the benefit of being witnessed in our anger, which adds a powerful element of healing and transformation.

See details and a registration link below. I hope to see you there!

And yes, I'll be really mad if you don't come! ;-)

Saturday March 30th, 2019 at Two Dog Yoga.

What to bring: water bottle, journal and a pen, comfortable clothes for movement.

Listening to our Bodies, Speaking our Truth

It's been a difficult time for many people this past month. From the catapulting of sexual assault to the national news headlines with the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings to the recent (seemingly ongoing) shootings in grocery stores, synagogues and beyond, there is a palpable response both collectively and for many people individually, in their own bodies. For a week or two during and after the Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford hearings I felt agitated, emotionally tender, and highly sensitive to comments and actions of others. It was hard for me to feel grounded in my body or stick to a task or a thought for an extended period of time. I would often find myself not breathing deeply and feeling on the verge of crying.

Then it hit me. Having twice been nearly sexually assaulted myself, I was reliving the trauma from those events somatically. I was feeling the pain of others in my own body and psyche and reconnecting with my own pain.

The moment I could see that and name that was pivotal. I was able to take some steps towards self-care, tell my husband that I was feeling tender and enroll his support, and better reach out to others I knew had experienced something similar. It shifted things greatly for me when I could name and be present for my own pain. It helped me continue down my own path of healing and be in community with others who are feeling pain.

In a world where so many people are in some sort of pain and where the realities of that pain are shared virally from thousands of miles away it is critically important that we be in community and support each other. None of us can do this alone. We all need support in being in touch with the truth of our experiences and our pain and encouraged to share our voice and heal.

I was particularly moved by the recent actions of one of my colleagues. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, she was feeling very connected to the trauma in her body from her early life experiences of sexual abuse. This person has done a lot of healing work over the years and was in touch with her current experiences enough to know she was having somatic (body based) symptoms of reliving the trauma. She too had a great deal of anxiety and agitation the week Dr. Ford was giving her testimony.

And then she did something empowering.

She called the sexual assault hotline in the county where she lived in her childhood during the years the abuse took place and she reported it. She took the bold step of speaking up and reporting the incident(s), even though it was decades later. She followed the inspiration she felt from people around the country who were speaking out and speaking up. She used her voice and spoke her truth. And then she felt empowered (her words). I was moved to tears when she shared this experience with me.

She is now exploring new avenues and options for speaking her truth, including telling her parents, all these years later, what happened. She is expanding her mind and psyche to a broader range of healing paths, even to the possibility of coming out of the shame and hiding of not being fully herself within her own family unit. She is opening to healing, more and more.

While everyone’s journey is different, this is one way it can look. This is one version of how healing from the trauma of sexual abuse, or pain of any kind, can unfold. Taking the steps to name what happened, be with the pain of that experience, and then taking grounded and centered steps towards wholeness are critical parts of the process. As is having loving support of community and trusted friends throughout. We are all in this together.

On Pain

There is a saying that “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. I think of that saying frequently – sometimes it feels easier to believe and embrace than other times. Ultimately though, I do believe it to be true.

This concept has been tested for me recently more than at any time in my life. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my share of pain. For years I dealt with chronic physical pain, something that led me to develop my Yoga for Pain Relief series that I offer a couple times per year. I won’t go into the details but suffice to say that I had pain in my body for so many years that I thought it would just be a fact of life for me. I’ve managed to move through and release some of it, only to develop pain in other areas of my body. I’ve gone through periods where I thought it would never end and periods where I felt I had released it and would free of pain forever. 

For physical pain, I came to see that for me it is a matter of how I relate to the pain in my body; pain that continues to come and go. I felt I had gotten to a relatively good place in terms of addressing and living with physical pain.

This year, however; was different. This year I was confronted with a new kind of pain, an emotional pain unlike anything I’d ever experienced. My dad died suddenly, on January 6, 2018. There was no warning and, more significantly, no opportunity to say goodbye. One day he was with us and the next morning he wasn’t. I was very close with my father and the pain I felt with his death was not only unique, it was truly the most gut-wrenching heartache, heart pain, I had ever known.

This new experience of emotional pain, of deep, deep sadness and grief, opened my eyes to a whole new way of understanding pain. Not only was I deeply sad and grieving, I could feel a physical pain/ache in in my heart that was indicative of the depth of emotional pain in my psyche. The connection between body, mind, and soul (which yoga philosophy talks about and life teaches us first hand) became even more clear to me. Truly my body, on all levels, was experiencing pain. 

For a while I could not relate to my pain, I could barely function; I simply existed as a being in the depths of grief. I was overwhelmed, and I had no choice but to allow myself to be supported by those around me who were there to love and hold me. Grief ruled my life, plain and simple. Every action I took, every decision I made - grief was the one in charge.  

As time moved on, I became more able to lean back and see the pain with a bit of distance between myself and the experience of searing emotional pain I was having. I could see and feel my deeply aching heart with a sense of loving compassion. I could notice and ride the waves of grief with a sense of open-heartedness to what was happening. I started to be able to relate to my pain and, more significantly, I slowly developed the strength and desire to be fully present for this tremendous experience, as painful as it was. The desire for mindful awareness grew within me. 

Eventually, I was able to develop a sense of tenderness for myself and my pain. The waves of grief that would bowl me over came with less frequency and in those in between periods I started to develop compassion for myself, my heart, and my experience, just as it was.

I can see now how my skills and ability to relate to my physical pain ultimately served me in the process of grieving the loss of my father and the emotional pain that accompanied me on that journey. In a very real sense, these types of pain are very similar. How we relate to our pain, any type of pain, makes a difference. 

In the Yoga for Pain Relief series that I developed we work with many different strategies to relate to our pain, to find some separation a between who we are as humans and the pain we experience at any given moment. There are strategies for each level of the body – physical, energetic, mental/emotional, and beyond. They will each resonate uniquely for different people. Together we work through the experience of pain as a very real human experience so that we may reduce the suffering of being in pain alone.

I hope you will join me for this four-week series, Monday evenings in August at Two Dog Yoga. See the Two Dog website for details and to register.

On Grief

I’ve never known a grief like this. 
My father died suddenly in early January.
The grief, pain, and sadness are unlike anything I’ve experienced before.
The mere shock of the event was enough to send my system into a different state.

I was on the phone with my mom when it was confirmed that they were pronouncing my dad dead, the EMTs would make no more efforts to revive him. Strangely, in that moment I remember being acutely present to and aware of the shape of my mouth and how it felt. I can still recall the strange twist of my lips across my teeth as this gut wrenching “Noooooooo!!!!!” poured out of me.

Then it felt as if all I could do was wail and sob. My heart ached with an actual physical pain.

I was on vacation and felt farther than ever from my mom and brother.

Those first couple of days when I was away in Sedona, Arizona, being beautifully held by my husband and our two friends, we went outside as often as possible. It was as if nature was the only respite I could experience; the only place I could breathe. I also did a lot of screaming those first couple days – and thankfully the remote and energetically charged hills outside of Sedona are a great place to do that. I poured my grief out through screams, moans, and wailing. I know that helped my early on grief move through me more smoothly.

Although I forced myself to get outside nearly every single day and do some type of walk, it was a week before I did my own yoga practice. Walking in nature nurtured my soul; it was like a salve for a badly wounded heart. It was the only thing I could do that resembled some form of self-care. When I finally dragged my emotionally beleaguered body to my yoga mat it felt like a disaster. My whole body ached. I barely wanted to move, yet I kept going through the motions – one sun salutation after another. Somehow my body led the way, as if prepared for this moment by all the years of practice I had put in prior to this day.

During that first week after his death I could barely eat. I subsisted on chocolate covered ginger, which both soothed my aching belly and gave me some quick energy to get through each day. In weeks two through four after his passing I noticed that I barely had a taste for any food. I couldn’t finish a single cup of coffee before it tasted horrible to me. Same with wine. Two pleasures I enjoyed immensely before now revolted me. Even food, which I normally love, no longer did anything to excite my senses; I was eating merely for survival. There was no pleasure or joy in eating any more.

I also often had a horrible taste in my mouth, one that wasn’t even alleviated with toothpaste. Eating good food, something which used to give me such joy, now felt not only like a chore, but completely turned me off. I don’t know if this is actually attributed to the grief, but I do know I had never experienced anything else like it. It is still present for me several times a week – this lack of desire for food or the bad taste in my mouth no matter what I eat – even now, six plus weeks after his death.

After the first week of waking up crying every day and sobbing myself to sleep at night, I moved into a different phase, one that felt like each day was an immense effort to move through. For the next couple weeks I felt like I was dragging myself everywhere I went and all I wanted to do was stay in bed or sit on the couch. The sense of energetic and emotional heaviness felt like an elephant sitting on top of me. I could walk only because I had over four and half decades of practice of walking. My legs felt as thick as elephant legs, energetically.
From that place it became easier and easier to get up each day; however, there is still a sense of dreariness about my life. Somehow everything feels dimmer, less bright, sort of meh. Most days I feel as if I would never return to my former sparkly, shiny, happy self. My wise mind and true Self tell me differently, but their voices feel soft and distant. The heaviness, low energy, and flatness feel like they’re screaming at me; they are all too present. 

The other, slightly subtler feeling I notice now is a low-grade resistance to feeling joy. I can’t fully articulate it more than that nor can I fully explain why, but somehow there feels to be this sense that if I am happy then I’m no longer sad that my dad is gone, or perhaps no longer honoring him. Or maybe I just don’t yet trust that the joy will come back, and the idea of joy feels so foreign to me now. 

Lastly, since this happened, I have had apprehension, trepidation, or sometimes downright fear about doing something again, for the first time. Like the evening I got together with a group of girlfriends, (something I used to do regularly), for the first time since his passing, I was very nervous. I was afraid I would have an experience I wouldn’t be able to control, and this was scary. It had nothing to do with the beautiful women I was going to see – they are lovely and very emotionally supportive. The same thing happened the first time I went out of town, the first time I went dancing, the first time I met a new person, the first time I went to a public yoga class. On and on and on.

While I’m not sure how I will emerge from this acute grieving process, there are a few things I do know for sure. 

By both necessity and by practice I’ve become much, much better at receiving. While I thought I had strengthened my receiving muscles quite well over the past few years, they have developed a whole new tone as a result of this experience. From the mere act of needing others to cook for me in order to eat throughout the day, to receiving gifts of time, food, cleaning, and other support, I have leaned deeply into others through these past several weeks. 

Second, If I ever doubted before that I had a community of people who loved me, that doubt has been shattered, sent to the winds beyond. The outpouring of love and support in all forms has been truly amazing. People I hadn’t seen in more than a year came to the memorial service. Others offered to bring food to my husband since I was staying most nights with my mom in Tacoma and not at home. Other friends ran errands for our family or brought food to my mom’s house, almost daily in the beginning. Still others helped encourage me as I wrote my dad’s obituary and eulogy. Family members came in from outside the US and my dad’s students came from across the country. They held space for my sad and struggling family while we were in the depths of despair. I received so many phone calls, text messages, emails, letters and more – some continue to this day, checking in on me through this varied grief process. 

I could not have known before how much this was all needed or how much it would mean to me, but I know now what it means to feel held by a community of family and friends. It is SUCH a gift and such a show of love. I see now so clearly how love is an action word. Part of my grieving has been isolation – after the initial outpouring of connection and support started to slow and everyone started to get back to “normal life”, I found myself still not wanting to be as social as I used to. And yet I know I’m not supposed to “do this alone”. The receiving for me comes strongly still in the form of saying yes to friends who reach out for connection, reach out to talk or get together, and reach out when I’m not doing so.

Finally, I’ve dug deeply into the practice of self-kindness and self-love. I’ve found that in order to get through each day I have to be exquisitely kind and gentle with myself. The few times I have not been so kind or not accepted myself right where I was, I stumbled more deeply into despair, struggled in my most intimate relationships, and slipped into unhealthy behaviors. When I treat myself with love and compassion, I am able to see the bigger picture of life and how I’m a part of it, connected with everyone else on this planet. A spiritual being having a very human experience. That is a comforting feeling.

The practice of becoming comfortable with feeling UNcomfortable

I’ve been thinking about this blog post for quite a while now and mulling around many thoughts in my head over the past several months. This topic has come up for me several times – both in teachings I’ve been reading and pondering as well as conversations with friends and family. It feels like an important topic and so I’ve waited a bit to get the thoughts in my head just right for sharing. Well at least I hope they come out just right…

It’s true for me and, from what I’ve seen, for many in our culture, that we don’t like feeling uncomfortable. We take an aspirin at the first sign of a headache or cramp. We dive into a glass of wine after a long day to “take the edge off”. We start to fidget or distract ourselves or shut down when confronted with difficult conversations. We avoid speaking our truth when it seems like it might not be well-received (even if we’re ultimately wrong in that calculation). And I’m both using a generalized “we” here and speaking for myself.

It can be exceedingly difficult to actually FEEL uncomfortable.

But why is that? It’s just another way of feeling.

The truth is we aren’t supported much in feeling uncomfortable in our day-to-day lives. I never saw a “How to Enjoy Feeling Uncomfortable” class in college. It wasn’t something my friends and I discussed, (until recently!), when we got together. And how many times are we told to “Suck it up”, “Suit up and Show up”, or “Just get through it so you can move on”? Far too often in my opinion. In my experience a person may not even know they feel uncomfortable until they are about to explode. We can almost be disconnected from the baseline knowing, (that deep in-the-body kind of knowing), of feelings of discomfort.

I’m no expert on this but I’ve been thinking about it and working on it a lot this year.

Towards the beginning of the year I actually set my intention to “speak my voice and speak my truth” this year – not something I’m always very good at and definitely not something I often feel comfortable doing. Go figure, when one states an intention in life the Universe tends to provide many opportunities to have the experience of said intention. For me speaking my truth can be VERY UNcomfortable. I tend to be conflict avoidant and want to make everyone happy, all the time. The “disease to please” as I’ve heard it called. This means that I often hold back from speaking in group settings where I don’t know people very well, I don’t share my opinions or feelings unless I’m with very close friends or family, and, in a nutshell, I hold a lot in. And the bottom line is, this impacts me energetically to the point where I feel even MORE uncomfortable – just to avoid feeling uncomfortable in the first place! What a vicious downward spiral.

So, what ARE we supposed to do? How can we expand our range of emotional experiences in life to be OK feeling uncomfortable? Something I truly believe helps us grow as human beings. How can we let ourselves become comfortable feeling UNcomfortable and move forward from there; interact with others from there.

I’ve taken recent inspiration from Michael Singer, author of the book The Untethered Soul. He suggests the practice of leaning back, figuratively, from that which is making us uncomfortable or whatever it is we are trying to push down or away. I’ve long known that just ignoring something does not make it go away, but the concept of leaning back and making space for something is a relatively newer practice in my life. I appreciated Singer’s talk about it and the softening he tacitly encouraged, which I’ve been doing when I started to feel uncomfortable. I’ve even started leaning back literally. Just to add to the intentionality behind it.

While making mental space for discomfort or uncomfortable ideas has been something I’ve actively practice for a few years now, adding the extra element of leaning back, to allow space at different levels of the body, is helping me deepen this practice.

Singer suggests that by making space for something that is uncomfortable we literally give it space to move through and out. And this practice in and of itself it also uncomfortable and counterintuitive – again, why give space to something we don’t like or find awkward or uncomfortable. And again, as I learn more and more every day, it’s because it won’t change if we don’t. It won’t become less UNcomfortable without first being allowed to be present.

It rather feels like a trapped monster in the closet that really just wants to escape but we’re so afraid of what it might do to us that we keep it locked tightly inside and spend a LOT of energy trying to keep it locked inside… rather than opening the door and letting it run away, move on, and let us then turn our energy to other endeavors. And if you’re like me, you know one can spend a lot of energy keeping that monster locked inside, all the while giving it so much mental energy and focus.

The second piece I’ll offer on this is one that seems so simple and yet can be so profound and transformative. For anyone who has taken a yoga class from me or worked with me one-on-one in yoga therapy sessions, you’ll know that I have a strong focus on the breath. Working with the breath is one of the most accessible and yet radically therapeutic internal practices we can do. Creating space to expand the breath in the belly can be a way to expand the virtual space in our mind – space to let the monster out of the closet. Slowing the breath can slow the pace of our thoughts, and our heart…

Try it right now: step back from whatever device you’re reading this from; think of something that makes you uncomfortable and then take three slow, deep breaths. If you’re feeling really adventurous, take six deep breaths. What do you notice? (As a side note – I’d really love to hear what you noticed, if anything. Please feel free to contact me and share – kathleen@kathleendowdyoga.com)

Finally – set yourself up for success. Invite others along on your discomfort journey. Make sure they are trusted others, those with whom you can be vulnerable and intimate. Let them know what you are up to and that you’re trying to engage in this practice – of becoming comfortable being uncomfortable. I’ve found the practice of a “safe word” a safe sentence actually, very helpful to help set the stage. Since it could be so unbearably challenging and uncomfortable for me to speak my truth or share what I thought would be difficult information, I used a starter phrase with a few people closest to me. I often began the sentence with… “this is really difficult for me to say but I feel it’s important to share…” or something similar. The effect of this opening statement dramatically increased my ability to say whatever was going to come next and also gave the person listening a chance to be more fully present to what was being said and also to hear it in a different way; a compassionate way.

And almost invariably, sharing what felt SO uncomfortable as I had imagined it in my head, was never quite a bad as I thought it would be once it was out. The discomfort escaped and then I was free. This wasn’t a pain-free process, but as I do it more and more it becomes easier to move through.

Keeping the “discomfort monster” trapped is a lot of work, and, I believe, ultimately stops us from living fully expressed lives. Lives that allow for the vast range of human experiences that make life rich and varied and interesting and yes, even uncomfortable. Furthermore, by holding space for our own discomfort, we are then also better able to hold space for others to feel uncomfortable, which makes us better friends, partners, lovers, and people. That alone seems to me to make it a worthwhile pursuit.

 

Related articles I found online that might be of interest to you. Happy reading!

1.      https://www.forbes.com/sites/sujanpatel/2016/03/09/why-feeling-uncomfortable-is-the-key-to-success/#5c60dfbe1913

2.      https://www.inc.com/kevin-daum/7-ways-to-get-comfortable-with-being-uncomfortable.html

3.      https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shameless-woman/201210/can-you-be-comfortable-being-uncomfortable

You mean there's nothing wrong with me?!?

In March was fortunate to be able to attend a yoga and cultural immersion in Bali in March with a fantastic group of yogis. There were many highlights, but the one I want to share is my visit with a traditional healer one afternoon (think Eat, Pray, Love type of experience).

I arrived at his home thinking, perhaps hoping, that he could tell me how to heal whatever might be wrong with me and cure me of my ills. I didn't have much of an idea what those ills might be but felt confident he could find them and make it all better. 

During our visit, we saw him treat many other people and without going into personal details I will say it was truly amazing to witness the healing that was taking place. I was getting excited!

After poking and prodding my head, ears, and feet he looked at me and asked me why I was in Bali. He asked about the nature of our group and then, interestingly, he asked if I practiced Yoga Nidra... in fact we had JUST done a Yoga Nidra session the day before. After a little more hands-on connecting to my energy he basically told me he could find nothing wrong with me....

Say what!?!

I had presumed that there must be something he could fix within my physical, emotional, or mental bodies – I mean I’m human right so something must be wrong with me; something must need fixing.

But no, he told me that I should just keep doing what I’m doing, “just keep practicing yoga”. That I was fine, even better than fine. 

The whole experience got me thinking. How common is it for people in our culture to seek out support from someone to heal them – generally, from what I’ve surmised, from the all too common experience of being human. We have a physical pain and we want it gone. We feel sad and we want to change that feeling as soon as possible. We feel any type of mental or emotional discomfort and we look for the next quick, external, fix to change those feelings.

Don’t get me wrong – we pretty much ALL need support at some point through our lives. I believe it truly takes a village (i.e. community) to grow, recover from heartbreak & loss, and move through trauma. Much of what I do in my yoga therapy sessions is help people heal from trauma experienced in various forms throughout their life. 

And I’ve done more than my fair share of seeking support in healing – therapy, energy work, women’s groups, shamanic practitioners, EMDR, 12-step programs, tons of massage in various forms, tarot, self-help books, and more. I’ve worked hard. And I’ve grown, changed, healed, and learned many lessons along the way. 

Perhaps I really am good, for now. Perhaps now it’s about deepening my spiritual practices, deepening my contentment, and then continuing to expand my offerings and outreach in the world from this place. 

What if we can simply rest for a while on the hard work we've done and then launch to new heights from there? 

I’m sure that life will continue to offer me additional opportunities to learn and grow and do more healing. And maybe, just maybe, right now I can stand on the foundation I’ve built for myself and simply be present to life and all it offers. 

If you are currently in need of assistance or help healing from trauma in any form, please contact me to discuss yoga therapy and see if it might be a good fit for you. I would be honored to support you in your healing journey.

And I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. Please feel free to share what you've learned on your journey.

Ahimsa - on creating connection

Ahimsa - I’ve been thinking quite a bit about ahimsa recently. It is the first of the five yamas, which comprise the first “limb” of the 8 limbs of yoga. It is a foundational concept in the world of yoga. Ahimsa translates as non-harming and asks us to live in a way such that our thoughts, words, and deeds do not cause harm to all living beings, including ourselves.

And it’s been on my mind lately for a few reasons – it’s the topic of the month in new classes I’m teaching (see website for updated teaching schedule). I’ve also been thinking about it in the context of the recent spate of violence and attacks around the world. And, I’ve been thinking about it in the form of how we connect with people in our life every day.

Recently another yoga colleague posted what I’ll call a “teaching question” on social media, a concept that was introduced to me by one of my primary teachers, Molly Lannon Kenny. The question is – in all of my thoughts, words, and deeds, am I creating connection or disconnection? It’s a pretty simple and straightforward question; however, when I think about it prior to taking an action or making a decision, it is pretty radically transformative in my life.

What if, every time I decided how - to respond to another person, answer a question, initiate a conversation, communicate non-verbally, or even have a thought about another person - what if I asked myself that question first. Am I going to create connection or disconnection with this action, thought, or my words. As humans we naturally want to have connection in our lives, even though we also want & need alone time to varying degrees. So if I consciously look at creating connection as a form of ahimsa, the furthering of non-harming actions in the world, I have multiple opportunities daily!

I know that the times I consciously remember to do this - to consider this question before acting or speaking - it forces me to think and feel with much more intention. This question entices me to be intentional with every action or thought I have. It provides an opportunity for me to foster connection and to at least lessen the chance that I'm causing harm. It helps me think about what kind of person I actually want to be in the world and how I can have the opportunity daily to consider that.

It gets even subtler when I think about my thoughts… Knowing the power of the energy behind my thoughts and how that translates across my actions and into my interactions with others, I see how even with my thinking I have the power and the opportunity to choose if I want to create connection or disconnection in life. It’s huge really, to think about how the choice of either rolling my eyes internally or smiling internally can have a dramatic difference on the life of someone with whom I am interacting. 

Knowing the power of a smile when I’m walking down the street by hundreds of random people daily, I see the true opportunity we have before us. It is overwhelming actually; I get excited by the amazing impact that each of us could have every single day. Translate that simple smile to the thousands of subsequent words and actions we say and do every day. I can see every interaction I have as an opportunity to create disconnection, i.e. cause harm, OR to create connection and practice ahimsa. 

So your invitation is this – just for today, can you find one opportunity to consider this question before you act, “will this thought/word/action create connection or disconnection” – and then see what the impact is on merely considering that question. How, if at all, does it change your actions or your thought patterns. Then feel the power of ahimsa...

I’d love to hear how the experiment goes for you! Please share your thoughts.