Ahimsa: Do no harm as we act from love and compassion.

There are no words that could capture all the feelings flowing through me now. All week I have turned toward my practice, wisdom texts and beloved teachers to support my understanding and guide my actions. While I feel ill-qualified to write and speak on behalf of those who suffer injustice, it is my duty as a part of the race that has instituted and maintained systemic injustice in our country, to take more action and end my part in every way, shape and form starting here. I am a white, heterosexual, female and although I have suffered some oppression as a woman, it is not comparable in any way to my fellow citizens oppressed or mistreated  differing color, race, gender identity, sexual orientation and religion. Hatred and oppression must end. Those who can must speak up and take action and stop doing harm. Doing and saying nothing (non-action) is action, we can either be a part of the problem or the solution. 

By firmly grasping the flower of a single virtue, a person can lift the entire garland of yama and niyama.  —Swami Kripalu

I love this quote because I truly believe that when we set our intention, our direction, and all our actions toward wise living and following an ethical path we will arrive in a place that will honor all life, equally. Ahimsa,  one of the Yamas (an ethical principle of yoga taught by Pantajali), translates to do no harm.  This same principle can be found in many spiritual teachings that call us to act with NON-VIOLENCE, NON-HARMING, DO NO HARM, and THOU SHALL NOT KILL.  “If we can “firmly grasp” Ahimsa through deep understanding and through embodiment of the principle in our thoughts, words and actions, with ourselves and with all beings, if we hold this virtue as our highest goal, we will naturally be led to follow all the other ethical guidelines.  

My intention is not to preach to anyone about how to behave, rather it is to lead by example, to take responsibility and make amends for any harm or injustice I have caused others, even unintentionally. As I reflected on my own harmful actions this week, I recalled behaving from a place of anger and disgust:  I wanted so much for others to share my perceptions of protests and social activism that I used language that was violent and dividing, rather than loving and connecting. I, like many others, used a “short cut” to express my feelings using language that is harmful and negative, rather than helpful and informative. My pledge is to pause, to no longer speak until I have the self-control to express myself with love and wisdom. 

My reflection this week also showed me that I am NOT doing enough to repair and heal the injustices white people have inflicted directly on Native Americans and African Americans and the countless others who differ in any way from the people in power. I believe in equality, but what am I doing to create it and demand it? How can I keep it in the forefront of my mind without watching the news? How can I continue to nurture the seeds of love and compassion for ALL human beings, even the ignorant, so I can act from that place when confronted by inequality and injustice?

My answer, for now, arose in my practice as I contemplated the anger, the sadness, the fear, and yes, even the guilt for not doing enough. Through my daily meditation practice, I will continue to send loving kindness and compassion to all beings, and will make nonviolence – in thoughts, words and deeds – my deepest desire.

It is not my intention to divide or separate anyone, it is to unify and connect through planting seeds of love and compassion. We are open to dialogue with the community on how the Sacred Treehouse can take a more active role in ending oppression and injustice. Email me at drpatty@scaredtreehouse.org.

May you water the seeds of love for all beings,

Patty and the faculty at the Sacred Treehouse

PS: Through my quest to find ways to educate myself and act from wisdom, I came across two important articles, one is an amazing list of What white people can do for racial justice, from my teacher Jack Kornfield and another,  What white people can do with privilege, by Ruth King at IMCW. 

Patty Thomas Shutt, founder of Sacred Treehouse, is a licensed psychologist and co-owner of Therapeutic Oasis of the Palm Beaches Dr. Shutt is passionate about helping others discover the benefits of mindfulness and meditation.  She offers Beginner Meditation & Advanced Meditation classes at Sacred Treehouse, in addition to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Mindful Self-Compassion and various book studies throughout the year.