I read a book about yoga called “The Yamas and the Niyamas: Exploring Yoga’s Ethical Practice” by Deborah Adele. It’s a very inspiring book about Yamas, meaning “restraints” and Niyamas which is translated as “observances”. They both talk about 5 jewels, which can be considered as ethical guidelines for yogis. I may be finished with the book, but I hope to journal my experiences as I observe the Yamas and Niyamas. I will start with the first Yama in the book: Ahimsa.
Ahimsa can be translated as non-violence. In a nutshell, it guides us to be kind towards others and ourselves without sacrificing our own needs or inflating our ego. On page 40 of the book is a segment titled “Questions for Exploration”, which list some thoughts and ideas for journaling. I hope to keep track of my weekly progress in observing each jewel of yoga in this blog.
Week one (summary):
This week practice courage by doing one thing daily that you wouldn’t normally do… See if you can discern between fear and the unfamiliar. Watch what happens to your sense of self and how your relationships with others might be different because you are courageously stepping into unknown territory.
It’s been 2 years and 6 months since I moved to Florida from Japan, and I still don’t have a driver’s license. I already have a learner’s permit which I got a while ago but I was too fearful of driving. I came back to driving regularly last week, but kept to driving around the neighborhood. This week, I challenged myself by driving on the main road! Just yesterday, I drove for a total of 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Another thing that I’ve been trying to work on is my swimming skills. I was always afraid of swimming because I drowned when I was about 6. Going under water is scary for me because it relives my fear of drowning. My fear of being embarrassed because I didn’t know how to swim kept me from practicing, just so I could get used to being the in the water. Getting out of my comfort zone was tough at first, but since I did it regularly, it started to become easier. Finding a goal for practicing and focusing on it really helped boost my self-confidence, and I eventually thought less of what others might think.
Last but not the least, I challenged myself by being more social. I have a fear of rejection… despite having experienced it many times in the past. When I interact with strangers, I get scared that I might say the wrong thing, or act a certain way that will cause them displeasure and eventually dislike. So this week, I worked up the courage to look at people in the eye when they pass me by or when they are nearby. I smiled at them if they met my gaze, and I even stroke up a conversation with some strangers here and then. I felt good about that since my social skills are almost non-existent. I clam up when I’m nervous or fearful, and because of that I get anxious, so I try to avoid eye contact and conversations with people. I know I don’t have to be overly friendly, and a smile and greeting would do in most situations. Still, I feel I need to work on shielding myself from other people’s moods and emotions. I’m really sensitive to other people’s feelings, and if someone around me is having a bad day or they are being negative, I get dragged into feeling the same way easily.
Through observing Ahimsa, I noticed that my confidence has definitely increased. I also realized that I overthink too much about how others perceive me, but I need to accept that what they think of me is none of my business. Ultimately, I learned the importance of kindness without expecting anything in return. It’s astounding how “fear” holds us back from living our lives to its greatest potential. I’m glad to experience courage rather than fear in most things that I do. Who knew such a simple gesture, of “mind over matter” can open so many doors of opportunity that makes life worthwhile.