Stop Shoulding on Yourself: Ahimsa is for you, too!

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I stepped on a shard of glass yesterday while making breakfast.  I knew immediately 3 things: 1) The shard of glass was really big,  2) The shard of glass went in really deep, and 3) I was in serious pain.  Instead of stopping what I was doing, I wrapped a towel around my heel and finished making my kids muffins on one foot.  Why?  Because I felt like that’s what I should do.

I eventually made it around to pulling the shard out and I again knew 3 things: 1) I shouldn’t have waited, 2) the act of removing the shard caused a second round of injury as it cut me on the way out, too, and 3) pain has levels and I had just reached a new one.  I applied direct pressure on my heel for some time and the bleeding stopped, so I prepared to teach my first of two yoga classes of the day because that’s what I should do.

The morning class was lovely and I’m glad to have been there teaching, but as I moved through class, I was totally distracted.  I was in pain, I was worried I was going to start bleeding again, and I simply wasn’t totally “there” in that moment because I was experiencing stress and pain and worry.  I continued on, though, because that’s what I felt I should do.

After class, I went grocery shopping for what seemed like hours and hours.  Pushing carts, chasing kids, reaching for items, loading, unloading, hefting, hauling, organizing, each step hurt more and more.  Yet, I continued and did the whole ordeal because that’s what I felt I should do.

By the time I got everything done, I realized that I was bleeding again and the heel was starting to blacken.  I had done so much damage than there was originally.  I had bruised my foot, impeded my own healing process, and risked infection all because of what I felt I should do.  As a result, I could barely walk by 4pm and had to find someone else to teach my evening yoga class.

My story is not unique.  I would be willing to bet my house that everyone out there has a similar story.  Why do we do this?

We need to stop shoulding all over ourselves.

Ahimsa (one of the Yamas) means non-violence, do no harm.  We often see that as Do no harm to others, to animals, to spirits, to ideas, to thoughts, but we must remember that it also means DO NO HARM TO YOURSELF!  We are human. We are vulnerable and we are subject to (physical, emotional, mental) injury.  We are not machines and yet we often attempt to behave as if we are.  All too often, we listen to the “should” voice instead of the “need” voice.  Yesterday, I needed rest and self care.  My body was screaming that message to me and yet I only heard the voice that said, “You SHOULD do more.”  I’m still limping as a result.

I see instances of this kind of shoulding on ourselves on the mat all the time.  Regardless of how many times we hear, read, and even say that we need to pay attention to only what’s happening on our own mat, the pull is to compare ourselves to what the yogi on the mat to the left is doing and we feel we should be doing that, too!  We ruin our alignment, ruin our focus, and risk injury to ourselves by not honoring where we are but only listening to the (dishonest) voice that tells us what we SHOULD be able to do.

This happens in all aspects of our lives.  Where do you should on yourself?  What might happen if you didn’t listen to that voice yammering on about what you should do, but instead you honored the voice that was telling you what is?  What would life feel like if you practiced a little more self love, self care, self acceptance?  What would life be like if we all did that?

Let us decide here and now that we will discontinue this harmful practice.  Let us decide to live a life of Ahimsa, remembering that it begins within.  Let us stop shoulding on ourselves and live free.  There’s certainly no harm in that.

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