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.