“A man goes out on the beach and sees that it is covered with starfish that have washed up in the tide. A little boy is walking along, picking them up and throwing them back into the water. “What are you doing, son?” the man asks. “You see how many starfish there are? You’ll never make a difference.” The boy paused thoughtfully, and picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean. “It sure made a difference to that one,” he said.”

Nicholas D. Kristof, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide

Ahimsa: Nonviolence

I’m a yoga teacher on the weekends. As part of my goals for this year, I wanted to take time to think through some basic principals of yoga, as well as take some workshops for continued education. In yoga training, I was introduced to the yoga sutras, yamas and niyamas. No, you don’t need to know what those things are to reap the benefits! Basically, they are guidelines for living a meaningful life. Who doesn’t want that?

This month, I’ve been focusing on something called Ahimsa. Ahimsa is respect for all living things and avoidance of violence toward others. Obviously we don’t want to go out and punch the next person that frustrates us (I’d be in trouble if that was allowed). The idea of nonviolence is to treat yourself, and others with respect. It is to understand that when you say harsh words, or are inconsiderate, you are not only hurting the person you’re speaking to, but also hurting yourself by hardening your heart.

Ahimsa means something different to everyone. To me, it means thinking kind thoughts about people around me, assuming the best, loving the unlovable, recycling and loving the earth God gave us, leaving a place better than you found it, spreading kindness and goodness, not speaking poorly behind someone’s back, being open to new adventures, and for me it even means not eating meat.

Do I actually do those things on a regular basis? Probably not. It is something I work towards and try to be very conscious of. Each week, I focused on new questions surrounding ahimsa from the book The Yamas and Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice by Deborah Adele. The book has challenged me to mull over questions throughout the week. I did this every week for the month of January. Some of the questions include:

  • Practice courage by doing something you normally wouldn’t do. How does your relationship change with others when you courageously step into unknown territories?
  • Guard your balance. Think of the things you need and be ok with them. Do you base your decisions on what you need or what you THINK you need?
  • Are you a fixer? Do you run interference on other people’s lives? Discern the difference between help and support. Are you avoiding something in your own life by involving yourself in others?
  • Pretend you are complete. Don’t criticize or change. Do you need to offer yourself more grace or kindness?

Each of these questions were a good mental exercise in being kind/fair to myself as well as others. Sometimes my introverted-ness means I’m not courageous in stepping out to help others. Many times, I’m not kind to myself and often criticize the things I do. Those bad habits can be mentally taxing, soI enjoyed spending my last week of January loving the person I am. Now to make that a daily habit!

Learning something new can be wonderful. Next month I’ll be studying a different yama on my own time. If any of these questions were helpful try assigning them to your mental free time. How can you be more loving? Maybe it’s thinking kind things and sending warm vibes in the office, maybe it is taking a day of rest for yourself and family. Whatever it is, give it a try! The root of non-violence (ahimsa) is love after all.

Courage

Have you ever thought about the word courage? This word has repeatedly forced it’s way into my path since 2019 has started. My phone background has a quote that says

Let this be the year you go after courage.

I’ve been hearing it in bible verses and in songs. I’ve been reading in my yoga book about ahimsa, and the courage to be kind to yourself; the courage to say no or the courage to be kind to all can be easier said than done. Quotes from one of my favorite movies (#disney4life) says

Have courage and be kind.

But what does it mean to HAVE courage. As I began thinking about it, the times I can reflect back on ‘having’ courage were times I felt the least courageous. Courage often comes at times when you feel low, insecure, or afraid. So for me, I don’t always remember the courageousness of my actions, but the fear that caused them in the first place.

That’s a mindset I know I’d like to change.

Having (taking/using/being of) courage is an action. When you’re fearful, you have a choice to slink away or a choice to be courageous. Saying what you’re really thinking is courageous. Standing up for yourself is courageous. Asking for help is courageous. Being a light for others is courageous.

In the midst of my husband job searching, both in our state and out, I find myself being courageous by waiting. I’m a doer; waiting for God’s plan is incredibly hard. I also find myself showing courage as I take time to work on my weaknesses and value my own strengths. Using this idea of ‘having’ courage is something I’m mulling over in my head. Courage will never be something you wish you didn’t have.

As I was scrolling through Pinterest last week I came across a quote that says

You can have courage, or comfort, but you cannot have both.

I think about how hard many of us work to be comfortable. To me, being comfortable always meant not worrying about paying bills or letting money be a source of anxiety. Being in a place where I’m comfortable, I see myself longing for more; surely there is more good to be done, more adventures to be had. Finding courage in our comfortable places is how we grow. It’s something we must work for. If courage was something that came naturally, we wouldn’t need to choose to do it.

We should all be choosing courage!

As I continue this week, mulling over how to find courage in the comfort, I’m curious to see what can happen. How can I be courageous at school? How can I push my friendships by being courageous? How can I influence my students?

How will you be courageous?

2019, it’s time for a change. It’s time for courage.

 

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You go, girl.

Have you ever had those days where you think to yourself, “Man, I’m on a role!”

Today I had one of those. I LOVE those days. There were things I’d been wanting to do before school starts back up in August, but hadn’t really let myself think about so I could enjoy a couple weeks of summer without extra tasks. As previously mentioned, I have a problem over employing the word ‘yes.’ But the truth is, I do love to accomplish things on my task list. I’m learning to find a balance between feeling overwhelmed and feeling accomplished. It’s important to note that those are not the same thing.

So this afternoon after summer camp, designing a wedding invite, planning part of a bachelorette party, buying shoes for a wedding, running errands, picking  gifts for a shower, walking Moose, cleaning the dishes and watching an episode of Super Girl, I was feeling that to-do list high.

But with every high there comes a low.

I started overthinking it….was I overdoing things? Am I falling into my old trap of doing too much? It’s a blessing and a curse to have a brain that can run with 15 tabs open.

Then I had a friend text me. She shared about some awesome things going on in her life and reminded me that when you let go, when you accept and experience what is going on in your life day by day, you’ll be on track. When you knock on God’s door for help, he answers. I like to believe that if I write enough reminders in my planner I can keep everything under control. Let’s be real though friends, we can’t control everything.

It’s hard to free fall, but it’s exhilarating to let go of the constant worrying, lists and overthinking. Think of something that you struggle to let go of. Imagine picking it up off your shoulders and setting it to the side. Imagine setting it in God’s hands. Do you feel lighter? There are thoughts, worries and burdens we don’t need to carry just for the sake of carrying them.

I always relate to the memes that say “I’m anxious because I’m not anxious.” It sounds silly, but in all honesty it is true for many of us. When things seem good it can be hard to accept it for fear of something going wrong, or forgetting to do something on your never ending task list. Today’s the day to let that go. To release and to trust!

After accomplishing all those tasks this afternoon I decided to go on a little jog around the neighborhood. I started breathing heavy, overthinking the things I did today, analyzing the level of productivity and wondering what else I could accomplish. Maybe I wasn’t as awesome as I was giving myself credit for…

Then someone drove by with their windows down. Without stopping a woman yelled out her window, “YOU GO GIRL!!” I didn’t have time to wave, but there was an immediate grin that spread across my face. Deep in my own thoughts, the little reminder that she yelled out her window brought me back to the happiness I felt earlier. You know, I think she may be right.

It’s time to be proud of our accomplishments, thankful for our experiences and encouraging to others. Text a friend, write it on your hand or yell it at a random jogger. Shout it from the rooftops! When we are humble enough to know we can’t do things on our own, but strong enough to accept that we are all worthy of great things, nothing can stop us.

You go girl.

~Shelby