Ahimsa is an ancient philosophy. Sometimes described as ‘non-violence towards all life’, it is in fact a deeply felt way of being, in which we are able to experience the living energy of other life forms.
It comes to us from a different time, a time when we had a deep connection with nature. Of course there are still many among us who feel that connection and ancient cultures that still teach reverence for all life. In her book “Braiding Sweetgrass”, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Environmental Biologist and member of the Potawatomi Nation, writes that ‘there are intelligences other than our own, teachers all around us’. She is, of course, referring to non-human intelligences. The intelligence of animals, of plants, of trees.
The dominant culture on Earth now does not respect the many non-human intelligences that are everywhere around us. And that lack of respect has taken the majority of people into a disconnected state, where they can no longer feel the inner life of other species. They can no longer hear the many teachers all around them.
How does someone awaken to the experience of ahimsa? Listening to the people who experience the consciousness of ahimsa definitely helps those who yearn for this connection but can’t yet feel it. But the big question is how can we help those who are so profoundly disconnected from the energies of nature that they are not even aware of their loss?
The most powerful way to help starts with feeling the suffering of such people. This first step can be the most difficult. Why? Because, even though we may realize that disconnection from nature is emotionally and psychologically very painful to bear, the damage that people in this state can do to the natural world can be very upsetting- especially for those whose sensitivities towards nature are awakened.
And here is the conundrum: in order to help the consciousness of ahimsa become widely felt, we must be willing to feel deep compassion for those who exploit nature, who are cut off from it. When we combine a deeply felt compassion for such folk with the ability to send loving energy to them in meditation, our desire to reach out in a state of love will gently awaken their sensitivities.
And this completes the circle of ahimsa: being willing to self-generate love to compensate for those who have lost theirs. Being willing to create feelings of profound care for those who are destroying the natural world the most. Ahimsa is the gentlest of words, the very sound of it like a sigh or a breeze moving through woodland. But it is powerful medicine. It can jolt us out of animosity and return us to love. If we are willing to listen, it is the healing force the world is calling us to make.
Wendy Marshall 2021