Most yoga practitioners understand that the first practice of yoga, ahimsa, means not harming ourselves and others. But, fewer practitioners know that a more complete expression of ahimsa means actively loving self and others.
When we love somebody, we act not only to protect that person, but to enable that person to thrive, find fulfillment, wellbeing and happiness.
If I am a parent and I fail to give my children loving attention, isn’t that harming them?
It’s the same with a married couple. I could act in ways that encouraged and enabled my partner to thrive, or I could withhold such positive attention. Although I might not be physically harming my partner by withholding positive attention, wouldn’t you consider it harm? It’s the same with those who work for us and even for strangers on the street. Where, by just a kind word we could uplift a person, isn’t failing to do so a little harm done?
Yesterday I went swimming in a beautiful sports center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and afterward, when in the locker room, a man I didn’t know looked at me and said, “how are you?” Thinking he was asking to meet social norms, I gave the socially correct answer, “okay.” Then, to my surprise, he said, “that’s good to hear,” and he looked at me in a very kind way. His response touched me and I engaged further with him. His name was Phillip and we ended up having a very pleasant conversation. I left that locker room feeling more connected to others and happier because of Phillip’s kindness.
Phillip was practicing kindness and love in action (ahimsa), and it made a difference.