Think of the qualities you associate with a warrior. I think of ferocity of determination, one pointedness in attention, and definite strength. Now think of the yogic quality of ahimsa. Ahimsa is one of the yamas (restraints) in Patanjali’s sutras. It is usually translated as nonviolence or non-harming. It means that we won’t hurt other people, animals, or plants. On the outside, it seems contradictory to pursue nonviolence with a warrior mindset. Nonetheless, I don’t believe it is possible to do it otherwise.
Yogis often think of ahimsa as being a passive thing; we vow not to do these things and so the activity is in restraint, holding back. However, I believe an essential component of ahimsa is active. It’s active self reflection. This means garnering the humility to look deeply into yourself and discover where the seeds of violence lay. Are there seeds of violence in your thoughts? Words? Deeds?
Ironically, productive self-reflection seems to begin with empathy, empathy both for yourself and for others. Taking the point of view of that part of you that feels wounded somehow can help you cultivate kindness towards yourself. While taking another’s point of view activates a deeper understanding and affection for the other --- making it easier to see where the seeds of violence tarnish that understanding.
Ahimsa is taking 100% of the responsibility for uncovering and releasing the harm in thoughts, words, and deeds. To look at yourself with honesty takes an incredible strength; a strength that becomes a kind of ruthlessness as you move from getting caught up in blaming others for your situations to doggedly pursuing those places in thoughts, words and deeds where you fall short of being the magnificent creature you know yourself to be, that being you know you can be – beneath the fears and the feelings of unworthiness. Approaching ahimsa like a warrior means engaging with yourself with kind fearlessness.
If self reflection and engagement are one half of ahimsa, compassion is the other. It takes fearlessness to look at yourself honestly and have compassion for yourself. Try this: step in front of a mirror and notice if you can love and accept what you see there. Are you berating yourself for getting older or gaining weight or are you kind to yourself and doing what needs to be done to take of yourself? Being compassionate outwardly starts with being compassionate inwardly. We have all met people who behave lovingly to everyone else but shred themselves the moment attention turns inward.
We have all met a true warrior at some point in our lives. Someone so at ease internally that most things that irritate most people are barely noticed. These true warriors are compassionate as well as ruthless. They can adopt the awareness that they are in charge of their thoughts, words, and deeds. And when they are unsuccessful at practicing ahimsa they don’t get caught up in blame or shame or regret.
They use that moment as an opportunity to dive deeper into themselves and learn more about their own thoughts and predicaments. Blame and shame are dead end streets in this process. Neither yields anything of value. It is empowering to know that you can do something about the state you find yourself in. You can ferret out these seeds of inner violence and discard them. Begin with ruthless kindness and ruthless self-reflection.

Author's Bio: 

Melanie McGhee, L.C.S.W. is an award-winning author, relationship expert, psychotherapist and spiritual coach. She is also the founder of Abhimukti Yoga Coaches - providing coaches training to yoga teachers.