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The Discipline of Peace

16 min read

Confrontation is a grey zone on the spiritual path. if we don’t hold onto them.
With the yogic teaching of ahimsa or non-violence, you might wonder if you ever have a right to fight back against reality even in the midst of great injustice.

Should you fight your way out of a defeatist victim- mentality?

Or is it better to take a few breathes to ventilate your hostility before taking your inner rage out on your fellow freeway drivers?

When is it appropriate to stick up for yourself & when is it time to quietly wait out the storm?

These questions and more are necessary for any serious student of yoga and spirituality to ask.
One of the most fiery places inside any person is anger. Whether my own or someone else’s, this troublesome emotion has always been challenging for me. I remember the shock of experiencing the seething kind of backlash that years of unexpressed boundaries can bring about, and then, realizing that my anger was just that: mine. No matter how awful the situation, how many friends agree, how righteous you are, how indignant or cynical you become, no matter how grand and tragic the loss, whatever emotions you feel are always your responsibility. You always have a choice about how you respond to life. A boiling temper is something that can get you into compromising situations very quickly. Whenever you get worked up it’s harder to resist the urge to react in a heated way. It’s in these moments that anger or other strong emotions can call you out of a peaceful relationship with those around you. Perhaps the greatest and most difficult application of the teaching of ahimsa is its application to oneself. Not only do you have to learn to manage your own anger or other strong emotions, but you also need to practice being kind towards yourself.

One of the most basic teachings of spiritual practice is to find yourself in the midst of your greatest challenge and stay. Whether you find yourself in heated emotional exchanges or in the pits of self-judgement, the teaching is most often to learn how to stay instead of running away. In moments where you find anger arising, try closing your eyes, reconnecting with your breathe & staying with the experience of yourself. See how it goes. What does this do? It at least breaks the cycle of adding fuel to the fire in the midst of a full-blown blaze. It at least gives you a little pause in an otherwise very sticky situation. It at least gives you an extra moment to find the strength to choose an enlightened action over the pattern of aggressively acting out, escaping into pleasure, or numbing-out in denial. It at least brings you one more breathe closer to forgiving yourself and others.

There is magic in staying with what Tibetan teacher Pema Chodron calls “the places that scare you”. For in those truly empowering moments you bear witness to the law of impermanence. Whatever aries in your experience, no matter how solid and sticky, will change. All emotions flow solid righteousness of anger yields and gives way to the soft, forgiveness of peace and understanding. The greatest storm will pass and the sun will rise again another day. Albert einstein says that you cannot solve a problem from the same level of thinking that created it. And so it is. Anger cannot create peace. Itching the scab that started the whole conflagration won’t end it.


A middle way exists for this tempting emotion as well. The powerful choice to stay gives you the opportunity to create the space of transformation in your life today. You create your reality by the thoughts that you think. Your attention is itself responsible for your life experience. No matter how awful the traffic jam is, how loud your neighbors are, how inconsiderate people may seem, how delayed the airplane is, you are the one who is in control.


When you choose to escape over coming to terms with the reality of your life, you choose a passive aggression that violates the principle of ahimsa just the same. Out of nowhere, surfacing from the past like a sleeping giant, it is often past hurt, drama, pain, sadness, or anger that hasn’t found its way out of your system that rocks the boat of an otherwise steady journey. Sometimes these patterns seem larger than life and you spend months, years and even life- times running from them.


Yet that is never actually true, for you are stronger than you know. The thick patterns of past hurt are enticing temptations and, when you react to them, it is a moment of weakness rather than strength. Daily discipline is a slow, steady and methodical way to retrain the habit pattern of your mind. When you commit yourself to daily practice, your yoga has the opportunity to live through you. It is through your dedication that you will find real and lasting peace. Great stores of strength reside deep within you now; yoga is how you can experience, practice and expand your hidden strength.

Each human being holds the potential of a great and beautiful unfolding, a delicate dance whose musicality graces the halls of Earth with powerful presence. Your life energy is vibrant and alive, full of the desire to flower. Yet your seeds must be watered well to grow in a healthy way. When you practice, you water the seeds of conscious- ness. In this gentle, yet
matter how often I’ve looked up into the sky, I have never seen anything but the sun.

Regardless of what type of experience finds its way into your life, you always have power over your reaction to reality. You can always choose peace over whatever battle your waging. In taking an active role in the power of choice you beomce the true master of your own fate. Anger and emotions are tied hand in hand with the world of thoughts. As you think and feel your way through life you have the ability to choose more peaceful or non-violent thoughts, hour by hour, day by day and year by year. Think that life is awful and it is…for you. Think that people are careless, blind and ignorant and they will be…to you. The power of positive thinking is a common topic of conversation, books and seminars in our post-new age, twenty-first century world. Most of us agree that it’s a good idea to concentrate our thoughts towards a positive goal, rather than lull around in the doldrums of complaint and whine. The real question lies not in the debate about whether we can create our own reality or not, but rather in the how.

Enter the five thousand year old tradition of which you take part when you practice yoga. Yoga is a true science of the mind where you actively practice choosing a peaceful response to distressful situations, thus giving you the tools for creating your reality in each moment. When you practice yoga, you watch your mind’s reaction to touching the borders of your physical reality. Your inner dialogue in postures that seem impossible to you parallels your reaction to life situations that push the boundary of your comfortability. Pushing these limits brings up fear, anger, sadness, frustration, and numerous other insidious emotions. As you begin to actively choose non-violent reactions to challenging situations you begin transforming the very fabric of your being.


It is easy to let your mind spin away into these temptations, however, with regular practice you will have the strength to remain calm, focused and aware. It’s like the difference between scratching an itch automatically and feeling the itch, then choosing not to scratch. As you remain calm, you are able to choose a peaceful response to your experience and thereby create your own reality. Wayne Dyer says that it is always possible to stop any life experience and say to yourself, “I can choose peace over this.” Yoga gives you a forum to practice saying to yourself that you acutally can choose peace over the patterns that you’re practiced in the past. You finally have the strength to stop scratching those pesky itches. Your thoughts are crystal clear in between your breath, posture, and drishti. With no one else to blame, no where else to run, nothing left to do, start where you are, in the center of your created life experience and begin the dedicated, devotional path towards creating a peaceful life in the present moment. One breath at a time. YL

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