The practice of nonharming comes — or should come — into play hundreds of times a day. The more sensitive you become toward the effect you have on others, the more you're called to live with moral mindfulness. How do you practice the virtue of nonharming in your life? You may think of yourself as a fairly harmless individual because you don't physically or verbally abuse anyone, but have you ever started or listened to gossip? And what about feeling negatively toward an annoying client or customer or an inconsiderate driver who just took your parking space?
¿«jltBEft Nonharming is not only abstaining from harmful actions, speech, and thoughts but also actively doing what's appropriate in a given moment to avoid unnecessary pain to others. For example, even withholding a smile or kind word from someone when you sense that the gesture may benefit that person is a form of harming.
In order to live, humans involuntarily harm and even kill other beings — just think of the billions of microorganisms in your food and even in your own body that give up their lives so that you can stay alive and be healthy. The ideal of nonharming is just that: an ideal to which you may aspire. The concept calls for abstaining from deliberately harming other beings. As a useful exercise, ask yourself these questions:
✓ How many times today have I spoken harshly?
✓ When did I last kill a harmless spider instead of leaving it alone or relocating it?
✓ Are my thoughts about things and people predominantly pessimistic, overly optimistic, or simply realistic?
✓ When I have to correct someone's behavior, do I merely criticize or also encourage?
Yoga definitely expects you to control your anger and murderous thoughts — not to be confused with merely suppressing your feelings (which never works anyway). Yoga also encourages you to cultivate, step by step, better habits and mental dispositions. As you become more peaceful and content, you don't react so strongly and irrationally to life's pressures but rather become more and more able to go with the flow — with awareness, a smile, and a helping hand. According to Yoga, a person grounded in nonharming is surrounded by such an aura of peace that even wild beasts become tame.
If you become aware of the various ways in which you harm others through your thoughts, words, and actions, don't succumb to feeling overwhelmed with guilt. That negative response is just another way of perpetuating violence. Simply acknowledge the situation, feel remorse, resolve to behave differently, and then also actively change your mental, verbal, and physical behavior.
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