Tag Archives: ahimsa

Thriving after Trauma

This past week I participated in an interesting discussion on the Sisters in Crime Guppies Yahoo group.  The thread coincidentally began while I was preparing to lead the next Yoga Sutra discussion for Whole Life Yoga’s advanced yoga teacher training.

For those of you who don’t know, Sisters in Crime is an organization that supports crime writers, like yours truly. “Guppies” stands for the “great unpublished,” of which I’m gratefully no longer a member. Many of us continue to hang out together even after we’re published because, frankly, we’re heck of a lot of fun.

This particular discussion centered around current backlogs of DNA evidence and how such backlogs might be incorporated into our future crime novels.

The confluence of these two conversations got me thinking, and when I get thinking I inevitably get myself into trouble. This time, I considered this age old question:

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Many spiritual teachings, including the Yoga Sutras, have an answer.

For their own growth.

Many of you know, either from the Guppy thread or from past conversations, that I survived something almost two decades ago that was, to put it mildly, painful. Some of you know the specifics, some of you don’t. Honestly, they don’t even matter. There isn’t a person alive over eighteen who hasn’t known trauma in one form or another. At least no one I’ve met.

The question is, when we experience said trauma, how do we deal with it?

The Sutras say that we have no true control over what happens to us or around us. The only thing we can control is how we react to it. An easy enough concept, if sometimes seemingly impossible to put into action. But the teachings go on later in Chapter 2 to hint that anything that happens to us has a purpose. The bold font and words in brackets have been added by me

Sutra 2.18:

“The seeable [our experiences, good and bad] has the characteristics of brightness, activity, and inertia. It is embodied in the elements and experienced by the senses. It exists so that the seer [you and me] may experience it and then become free.

About a year after my personal trauma, I met with a counselor. I told her that I knew there was a purpose for what had happened to me, but I hadn’t found it yet.

She looked at me, deadpan, and asked a question.

“What if there isn’t?”

My answer came from a place so deep inside of me that, until that moment, I didn’t even know it existed.

“Then I’ll have to create one. The alternative is too awful.”

That was the day I began to heal.

Who knows why bad things happen to good people? I sure as hell don’t. But can we find growth, perhaps even peace, in spite of it? The sutras say yes. I’m inclined to agree with them. I wouldn’t trade my life for any other on earth, in spite of the traumas (and like all of you, I’ve had more than one) I’ve experienced along the way.

I’ll leave you all with one final comment, also from the Sutras. This is for those of you who are now feeling cranky with me. The translation is my own.

“Individual results may vary.”

May your life’s experiences—good, bad, beautiful, and challenging—serve as a springboard for your growth.

And ultimately, may you find peace.

Namaste

Tracy Weber

          A Killer Retreat

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle, and check out Tracy Weber’s author page for information about the Downward Dog Mysteries series.  A KILLER RETREAT is available for preorder now from Whole Life Yoga. MURDER STRIKES A POSE is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,  and book sellers everywhere! 

Ahimsa in Life—Lessons from the Tasha Dog

Ahimsa—non-violence—is one of the most important concepts in yoga. In fact, the Yoga Sutras say it’s not just important; they say that ahimsa trumps all. In other words, when in doubt about what to do in any situation, act with ahimsa above all else. But ahimsa’s not as simple as choosing not to slug your neighbor when he annoys you. Ahimsa means non-harming at all levels: actions, communications, intentions—even thoughts.

I don’t always succeed, but I’ve tried to live this way since long before I took my first yoga class. One memorable incident happened around third or fourth grade. I tearfully convinced my grade school science teacher to cancel the planned grasshopper dissection so I could release the small, winged creatures back out into the field. I’m pretty sure the grasshoppers were happier about my success than the school groundskeeper.

Fast forward 30 years and enter one willful, stubborn, and impossible-to-potty-train puppy.

I fell in love with Tasha the moment I saw her, even though she was only three weeks old. I gushed as I told the breeder all of my plans for the “soon-to-be-mine” puppy. Holistic vets, positive dog trainers—I even asked if Tasha could be vegetarian. The breeder’s expression changed from interest, to concern, to outright disbelief.

When I finished, she said, “I can’t sell a puppy to you. You’re too nice to own a German shepherd. This dog will walk all over you, and you’ll return her to me, ruined.” I begged her to reconsider. She did, but only after handing me a list of requirements: specific training books, Western vets, and high-meat dog foods. Then she sent me home and told me to come back when I could prove my worthiness.

Five weeks later, I returned, carrying a dog crate and looking my toughest. I threw around terms like prong collars, leash pops, and human pack leaders. Convinced she’d converted me, she sold me my dog.

Unfortunately, Tasha never read those training books.

She was smart as a whip, but had no concept of bladder control. I followed all the rules in the books. I tethered her to me; I took her out every hour; I carefully watched for the circling and sniffing they promised would happen.

It never did.

Tasha was a trickster. Her favorite trick was to wait until I went to the bathroom. Then she’d immediately squat just out of reach and do the same. I’m not sure who spilled more urine on our bathroom floor—her as she squatted, or me as I tried to grab her.

I e-mailed the breeder and followed her advice. I threw toilet paper rolls at my puppy; I rattled coins in jars; I sternly scolded her each time she was “naughty.” My tactics weren’t quite up there with shock collars, but they weren’t exactly ahimsa-like, either. The only thing that changed was Tasha. She had the same number of in-house accidents, but now she cringed, waiting to be punished, after each one.

This lasted a week; then I came to my senses. I tossed out the training books, stopped calling the breeder, and followed instead what I knew in my heart. Instead of punishing Tasha when she did wrong, I gushed with enthusiasm when she did right. The change was immediate. My puppy changed overnight from frightened and cringing to boisterous and happy. Perfecting her potty training took much longer, but I could live with that.

Over the years we’ve dealt with issues much more serious than soiled carpeting. But my training approach has stayed true. I treat Tasha with praise, love, and a complete lack of violence, in actions, words and vocal tone.

Tasha grew into a wonderful dog, but she wasn’t the only one changed. People noticed the shift in me, too. Since I’ve lived with my dog, people tell me I’m kinder; my interactions with others, more patient. Tasha taught me more about ahimsa than the sutras ever could.

Vets and trainers tell me that Tasha’s trust in me is impressive. Strangers walk by us, yelling at their own dogs while jerking their leashes. Then they stop and tell me they wish their dog was as well-behaved as mine. People even yell from the distance, “You two are so good together!” And they’re right. But only because I followed the yoga teachings instead of a well-meaning dog breeder.

My challenge to each of you is to examine your interactions with others—both human and animal. Notice your actions, communications, and thoughts. Try to act with more compassion—more ahimsa.

You may not change the behaviors of those around you, but you will definitely change yourself.

Come visit Whole Life Yoga in Seattle!

And for those of you interested, I did end up working with a great Seattle dog trainer, who shares this philosophy.  They even use the word ahimsa in their business name!  Ahimsa Dog Training. Here’s their link on ahmisa.