Holding Space: The 1st Yama - Ahimsa

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just is” isn’t always justice.

- Amanda Gorman, The Hill We Climb

If I had to choose just one aspect from the entirety of yoga for one to turn to again and again with open-mindedness, compassion, and humility, it would be the practice of Ahimsa (non-harming), the 1st of 5 Yamas from the 1st Limb of Yoga. For me, this is the quintessence of yoga and, as a matter of fact, of all spiritual practices. It carries the wisdom of truth that ties us all together.

Ahimsa is like the primordial seed, the basis of our being with one another – all other practices come out of Ahimsa and all of them return to it.

Observing and becoming aware of how we can cause harm with our thoughts, actions, and words at any given moment is a great start. Eventually this awareness automatically leads us to some course corrections in the way in which we interact with the world around us.

There are infinite ways to approach Ahimsa, some of them more obvious than others. Any change, even the slightest and seemingly insignificant, creates a spark that expands out into the world.

We all have experienced how powerful a simple smile can be when we encounter a disgruntled fellow human. It is tempting to become triggered and react with equal disgruntlement. But what if we take a breath and decide to instead respond with compassion, a smile and a kind word?

What we are doing in this moment is simply holding space for their suffering and their story that we know nothing about

Lately, I find myself contemplating and exploring this notion of ‘allowing space’ or ‘holding space’ quite a bit. Making space for different opinions and points of view, new ideas, different perspectives and approaches, something other than what we somehow defined as the norm.

This writes and reads so flawlessly but is equally easy to trip over. How often do we feel ourselves getting triggered, not allowing space for the other person or group and their views; and thus we find ourselves reacting rather than responding?

The whole world watched as Amanda Gorman recited her stirring and moving poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ on January 20. This was so much more than just a memorable moment from a presidential inauguration.