Not so different from the Golden Rule, ahimsa is yoga’s first social ethic or yama and translates as not harming anyone, including ourselves. A part of ahimsa is being non-judgmental. I try to remind myself of this and not label my tremor as “bad” or qualify my balance from one moment to the next. I try even harder to remind myself of this regarding stories such as Billy’s, the Arkansas boy whom classmates have been bullying – with their fists – for four years.
The article (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/24/us/24land.html)unleashed a long-buried memory. Timmy, a scrawny kid with brown hair and intense dark eyes, lived around the block and back one street. His age was somewhere between me and my little sister, making him too young or too old for either of us to play with, not that we would have. Timmy made up for his stature with his teeth. He was a biter.
Timmy was otherwise harmless. He was like a bee. Stay out of his path and no one would get stung. But, rub him the wrong way and he’d chomp on your arm. He was six or seven and still aiming for a tender spot below the elbow of anyone who taunted him. Which made the neighborhood kids egg him on all the more, rolling up their sleeves and double-dog daring him to have a taste.
It was when he went right through little, curly-haired Annie’s shirt and left marks on her stomach that the posse formed. Two big kids grabbed him and hoisted him into the air as though he were perched in an imaginary electric chair above their heads. It was magnetic how the rest of us followed as Timmy was paraded through backyards to his house. We numbered fifteen, maybe more, marching and chanting Biters Not Wanted.
The look of horror on his father’s face said it all. Whatever his son had done was nothing compared to the group-think that erupted as self-righteous finger-pointing.
I’ll never understand how the Arkansas teachers and police didn’t act on Billy’s behalf. I’ll also never figure out how I let myself get swept into the gang of kids that thrust Timmy at his father as though he were a bag of trash.
What ahimsa is all about, to me, is approaching life’s loathsome diseases and abhorrent behaviors with a loving heart. When I’m reminding myself of the first yama, I will consider Timmy’s father. The look on his face once the horror passed was one of pure compassion as he enveloped his son in his arms.
this is why group think scares me so. When I saw the whole country flying flags after 9/11, my first instinct was to pull down any sign of flags in my house or yard. I do not want to be associated with group think in any way because I’ve seen the awful results of it. I knew there would be bullying done by the US in the name of protecting ourselves. And I was right. I could feel it even while I was feeling the shock of seeing the awfulness of the downing of the towers.
Now this is all and well except when it becomes a problem with being in groups that I really would like to call my own. I can usually work with groups until they start talking as if they are all one. For instance, I’ve been very active politically this year, keeping on top of what was happening each day in the races. But by saying I’m for Obama, am I suddenly thrown into the realm of Clinton haters. This I cannot stand. And so I remain staunchly independent, but rooting in one direction.
All this aside, perhaps it is the yama that makes me feel this way. Do no harm. I like that, and it certainly makes me feel better about not wanting to put myself in the way of group think, which too often, ends up harming someone. You’ve given me much to think about today.