My relationship to ahimsa began as a child of the 1980's environmental movement (but I didn't know the word nor the idea at the time). Anyone old enough remembers all the t-shirts and posters telling us to save the whales, dolphins, wolves, and rainforests. It was also the era to end the use of CFC’s and put down your aerosol hairspray for a pump bottle. There was a hole in the ozone layer (and there still is). Being an environmentalist seemed logical.
The idea of caring for my mind and body took a similar hold. I was fortunate to grow up in the home and the country that I did. Regarding faith, my parents aimed to let their children think for themselves. The country tried the opposite but not as forcefully as many places in the world. For me, the result was life long atheism and the appreciation that I have only one chance to do well with my time. (Atheism also has a significant influence on my choice for life long sobriety; more on that at another time.)
In 2002 I went vegan and this drove my understanding and actions towards kindness like nothing before it. Jump to 2009 and I learn of ahimsa. Yes, it comes from and can be a spiritual concept. No, there is not a conflict for an atheist to use the word. It is the best term to embody the philosophies I wish to filter my behaviors through.
So how do I try to follow that simple definition written above? As I mentioned before, veganism plays a big role. Since I eat daily, I act daily. Beyond that I continually try to improve my relationship to others by learning who 'others' are, focusing on my speech and listening skills, and I try to build empathy in as many ways as possible. The same goes for me. Who am I and how can I be better towards myself?
Building off of this comes stepping away from competition, changing my relationship to capitalism, reviewing all my consumer habits and waste habits, and learning about everything I can within my abilities. It is a slow process. It is an ongoing process. It is the process of progress and I am a work in progress. I'm ok with my flaws, my strengths, with myself, and I will do what I can to my best ability. (Here’s a secret: we are all doing our best, all the time, the end, no other possibility.)
Oh and I try to laugh, love, enjoy food, breathe clean air, and to move my body. Wait, there’s more. I also try to have integrity with these ideals and myself. That is the holistic part of holistic veganism; all systems, interconnected, functioning to their capacity and aware of each other. To me, this is ahimsa in effect. Please share in the comments how you put kindness into effect. Let’s inspire each other.
*Kirkwood, W. G. (1989). Truthfulness as a standard for speech in ancient India. Southern Communication Journal, 54(3), 213–234.