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Ahimsā as a Practice

The Jivamukti Yoga Focus-of-the-Month for May, written by Jessica Stickler, is called “Beyond Ahimsā: Restraining and Releasing.” In it she writes:

“Ahimsā, non-harming, is a practice that can lead us to yoga and is categorized as a ‘restraint’ or yama – a practice of holding back or restraining ourselves from causing harm. The idea of restraint implies that harming may already have been there – unconsciously – in our thoughts, words, and actions. The first step is looking with clear eyes at the way our actions impact others.It means reflecting on ourselves deeply and with clarity, honesty, and humility. We can start by trying to reduce the harm we are doing in the most outward ways in our lives, the harm created by action.

This is a practice and implies returning again and again to the same action (or restraint) with intention and consistency; it does not imply perfection but [rather] the willingness to apply effort and persist, until we are able to sustain the new, desirable habit.”

So ahimsā is a practice, something we have to work at. Since it is a practice, it requires that we pay attention, that we are mindful. Just like any other practice, we must try to bring mindful awareness and our full attention to our thoughts, words, and deeds. In practicing ahimsā, we must remember that we have choices, and that our actions always have consequences. Through our practice of ahimsā we are working on developing a new habit—the habit of compassion and kindness towards ALL beings with whom we share our beautiful, blue planet.

Ahimsā is, of course, something we should be practicing towards Mother Earth herself as well. We can reduce our carbon footprint and practice ahimsā towards the earth and our fellow earthlings by:

Choosing a Diet of Compassion

One way we can practice ahimsā in our daily lives is by choosing a diet of compassion, or a vegan diet (also known as a “plant-based” diet). Not ready to commit to a vegan diet full-time? That’s okay. Maybe you start with “Meatless Mondays” or one meatless meal a day or try making every-other-day meatless. Even just reducing the amount of meat, seafood, eggs, and dairy that you consume is better for the animals, the planet, and your own health.

To learn more about the connection between yoga and veganism and for inspiration, read Sharon Gannon’s beautiful book called “Yoga and Veganism: The Diet of Enlightenment.”

One of my favorite websites for vegan recipes is Minimalist Baker. The recipes on this website are typically quick to make, they require few ingredients, and the ingredients are common ones. Here are 50 Spring Recipes from Minimalist Baker that look really delicious.

Composting Food Scraps

When you adopt a plant-based diet, you’ll be eating (ideally) more fresh fruits and veggies, and those create organic waste (such as banana peels or onion skins for example). Rather than tossing that waste into the garbage bin, give composting a try. Composting food scraps is an easy way to reduce our carbon footprint AND contribute to the creation of nutrient rich soil.

My household recently joined Rust Belt Riders, a food scrap composting company here in Cleveland. They offer an option to drop off your food scraps at one of their locations, or you can have them pick up your lidded 5-gallon bucket (which they provide) from your front door. I keep my bucket in the kitchen, so whenever I cook I can toss the scraps right in. On Mondays, Rust Belt Riders pick it up from my front porch and leave a clean bucket. It’s super easy and so good for the planet.

Supporting Local Agriculture

Adopting a vegan diet means that (again, ideally) you’ll be eating lots more fresh fruits and vegetables. Those grown close to where you live are the most nutritious and delicious, and supporting local agriculture is another way to reduce your carbon footprint. You can also feel good about supporting small farms and farmers.

My family gets fresh, locally grown (within 90 miles of Cleveland) fruits and veggies weekly from June-October through the amazing City Fresh program, which has pick-up locations (or “stops”) all over northeast Ohio. You can pay for the whole season up front, or you can pay week-by-week. It’s easy and convenient, and the produce is delicious!

Need Help Getting Started?

To get started on a plant-based diet, take a look at this Beginner’s Guide to a Whole-Foods, Plant-Based Diet from Forks Over Knives.

Or, reach out to me! I became vegetarian 33 years ago (I was still eating dairy and eggs but no meat or seafood), and then I made the switch to full vegan 13 years ago. I enjoy cooking, and I’ve been told I’m a pretty good cook. If you’re interested in learning more about how to “go vegan,” let’s talk. I’m happy to offer private or small group how-to lessons on: vegan cooking, vegan grocery shopping, how to read labels, kitchen skills/knife skills, what to do with ______ (fill in the blank Tofu? Tempeh? Kohlrabi? Bok Choy? etc.), vegan food prep, etc. I also have a ridiculous cookbook collection and am happy to recommend some of my favorites.

---Lokah Samastah Sukhinoh Bhavantu—

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

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