Ouch! We’ve all said it. We’ve all felt it. Hurting is part of being human. But that doesn’t mean any of us like it; in fact, we often do everything we can to avoid pain. It’s hardwired, part of our survival programming. But avoiding pain, or avoiding feeling or examining it, can cause more harm, to our selves and to others.
The times I have been most hurtful are when I have myself been hurt, and not mindful. The reaction can come out like a boomerang – right back at the source of the pain – but most often I turn on myself, and become self-judging. Our minds are also wired to be critical, to root out problems and solve them, and we can become our own target.
The practice of yoga asks us, in the first of the eight limbs of yoga, to be non-harming. Ahimsa. To not strike. To not cause hurt. That’s the very first step, which tells us that it is the most important; but it certainly isn’t easy! All of the other limbs have practices that precede it that are preparatory. Before we practice meditation, the seventh limb, we learn to concentrate, the sixth limb; before we practice concentration, we practice unplugging from our senses, the fifth limb, and so on.
One way to reduce or avoid harm to our selves and others is by tending to our feelings. The very phrase “ouch, that hurts” has been a turning point for me. When I am paying attention, and something hurts, I take a moment to tend to myself. I take a few breaths to feel the feels. And then more options open up for me. I don’t have to criticize or react; I can get curious and tap into discernment.
“Ouch, that hurts!” Three words. What if whenever we feel hurt, or hurt someone else, these three words are uttered? What would change? Would we learn about ourselves? How much further harm could we reduce?
Look out for the upcoming Mid-Month Mindfulness Newsletter and Blog! Ashley will share a meditation specific to ahimsa and tending to what hurts.
Posted by: Anne Phyfe Palmer, 8 Limbs Owner and Teacher Training Director
P.S. Join me this month for a few events, both at 8 Limbs West Seattle:
September 12 for a free Info Session at 7pm to learn about the 8 Limbs Teacher Training Programs, one of the ways to be pulled into the deeper teachings of yoga. Next training starts October 11!
September 26 I’ll offer a special chakra-based asana practice at 7:15pm with writing prompts for self-reflection from my book This Life of Mine: A Legacy Journal.