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Value Neutral: Ahimsa Week 3

Read the previous post on Ahimsa weeks 1 & 2 here!

Continuing my journey with Deborah Adele's interpretations of Ahimsa:

Week three: Watch where you are running "interference" on others' lives; be mindful of giving advice/opinions, trying to 'fix' them or their situation. Discern the difference between help and support. Notice what you might be avoiding in your own life because you're so interested in others' lives.

Why? Adele raises some incredibly poignant points in this short section on Ahimsa, basically that we undermine others' autonomy and journey when we try to impose our own opinions and advice on them. When we see someone we love struggling, we want to help, but those challenges (and failures) make up who we are, building our character and self-esteem. She even points out that worrying over someone is a type of violence, as it means we don't trust them to make their own way or make the right (in our eyes) decisions. According to Adele, "We both devalue and insult others when we worry about them."

Whoa. So much to consider here!

This concept is really hard to keep in mind, much less follow. I LOVE to give my opinion/advice, whether it's asked or not. But I don't want to be that person who's always giving her unsolicited advice, especially when I haven't been in the recipient's specific situation. And I don't particularly like it when someone gives me theirs without my asking. So it's great to keep in mind always; most people don't want advice, they just want to be heard. I also caught myself doing a good bit of gossiping and talking to my friends about other people who are close to me, who probably trust me to be respectful of their privacy. So I don't feel great about that, but I was also going through some tough shit that I needed to talk about it. Overall it was a difficult week full of personal challenges that I alternately conquered and failed.

1. One person I truly struggled to not run interference on is my sister. We have had an extremely strained and at times non-existent relationship over the last 20+ years. We only reconnected about 2 years ago, and I've visited with her for a few hours at a time twice since then. She has no contact with my parents, or really anyone else in the world, so I feel an extra weight of being one of her only human connections, as in, I'm the only one who can offer advice or guidance. She is mentally ill, and very difficult to deal with. I know this from a lifetime of experience, but I still get caught up in old patterns with her. I decided to have her come visit for two nights while we were in Florida, which is the longest amount of time we've spent together in over 15 years. In hindsight, it was too much for both of us.

I would say that for 1/2 the time with her I successfully managed to hold myself back when I really, really wanted to impose my opinions (or try to shake some sense into her), but only out of resignation. The other 1/2 of our time together I took every opportunity to impose my views, advice, lifestyle, etc. onto her.

So, fail. And we're not talking again, which is certainly not all because of my running interference, but I'll bet that if I had just kept my mouth shut and let her talk the entire 48 hours, things would have turned out differently.

This week's challenge merits a re-do, but it's also such a valuable practice in all relationships. People, including myself, just want to be heard, not be administered advice from someone who is not in their shoes.

2. Value Neutral: This is a mantra I repeated all week and beyond. I tried to observe without judgement, which is my and most people's default. It turned out to be an incredibly helpful mantra: I repeated during yoga classes with teachers that I wasn't absolutely loving, rather than evaluating them and the whole experience. Keeping a Value Neutral viewpoint allowed me to enjoy myself more (or at least not be negative about it) and even extract a pose or transition I liked. I urged myself to be value neutral when my sister's behavior was blowing my f*cking mind. And I also repeated this mantra at least 200 times in a desperate effort to pull myself back from the edge of panic attacks while driving to NJ to pick up my dog. That's a blog for another time.

This entry really makes me sound like a massive bitch. Maybe my sister is right about that.

Up next: week 4 of Ahimsa and the month's conclusions.

The highlight of a difficult week


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