That’s what change can be. It can take our breath away with the most wonderful gasp of delight, or the breath can be caught tight in our chest, sharp and immovable.
My life has seen so much change in the past six weeks. The beginning of exciting new projects and sudden changes in circumstances that I didn’t expect.
Awe inspiring change can make us feel lighter than air. Awful change can make us feel leaden and stuck.
I prefer awe-inspiring change. Who doesn’t?
Here’s the thing – how we describe change depends on how we process the change. The story we write about it in our heads and our hearts. The peace or the violence we ascribe to it.
I’ve been thinking about this because of the labels I’ve been using to describe the changes in my life.
One of our assignments during our first month of training at Niroga Institute in Berkeley was to give some thought to Ahimsa. Ahimsa is the first of Patanjali’s Yamas – or moral codes. Ahimsa asks that we be compassionate. It asks us to walk a path free of violence.
What is violence? Is there ever a time when an act of violence can be justified?
This is what I wrote for my assignment:
Violence is a small thing.
It is a girl child running through the jungle, arms stretched out, mouth open in silent cry,
clothes seared from her body.
It is a small thing.
Violence is an act of war.
It is a jetliner ripping a skyscraper in half. It is men detonating the bombs they strap to their bodies. It is women being gang raped on the back of busses. Violence is the sting of a mother’s slap on her young son’s frozen cheek.
Non-violence begins when I remember that violence doesn’t ask for much.
Because violence is a small thing.
Violence begins when I wake to curse the haggard reflection staring back at me.
Violence ends when I wake and offer thanks for my humble life.
Violence begins when I whisper secrets that belong to someone else.
It ends when I sit in quiet contemplation.
Violence begins when I fill my eyes with gratuitous images.
It ends when I change the channel.
Violence. Non-violence. Ahimsa. Himsa.
Two sides of the same coin that we toss into the air without a second thought.
We can choose the side on which it lands.