This week the Power of Awareness course explores how to bring the skills of mindfulness to our relationships. In life, we are always in relationships.
As Archbishop Tutu says, in Africa when you ask a man how he is doing, he would always answer in the plural. A man may be fine, but his grandmother may be sick. So he will answer: we are not well. The solitary human being is a fiction.
The most basic ground of mindfulness is the practice of non-harming – ahimsa, one of the 8-limbed path of yoga. Sometimes when we sit quietly we have the re-runs of regret and cruel words – and when they come up it can be overpowering. When we undertake the training of non-harming, we begin to live without regret. The practice of non-harming gives the gift of shared safety and integrity. There is something beautiful about living in a way that minimizes harm.
A bug crawls over the paper,
leave him be.
We need all the readers we can get.
Lloyd Reynolds, America’s foremost calligrapher
The 4 aspects of non-harming are:
1. Reverence for life – setting an intention to not to cause harm to one-self or others. Sometimes when we are in the grip of anger and reactivity, this intention will help us to reflect: will this action cause harm to myself or others.
2. Stewardship of the material world – looking at how we live.
3. Care with our personal relations: showing care with sexuality as well as care with intoxicants, for the sake of ourselves and for the sake of others. Do not cause harm to your own body or heart and do not cause harm to another.
4. Wise speech: attending to your speech so it’s not harming to oneself or to others. Words are powerful – they can reassure, bring comfort, they can soothe our fears, inspire, they can make connection amongst ourselves. But they can also hurt deeply, sow mistrust, cause destruction and they can also start wars.
The principles of non-harming and mindful speech are:
1. Is this speech true and useful?– sometimes it may be true but brutal honesty is not always that helpful.
2. Is it to their benefit?
3. Is it not harsh but rather said with kindly intent?
4. Does it help us to connect to the other?
The attention that we give, care and compassion and mindfulness to our speech applies not only to how we connect with one another, but also to our inner speech. To undertake the intention is to not to speak harshly to ourselves.
A beautiful inner intention by Diane Ackerman:
In the name of the daybreak
and the eyelids of morning
and the wayfaring moon
and the night when it departs,
I swear I will not dishonor
my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly
as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.