Ahimsa: The principles of non-violence toward all living things
Nischala Joy Devi describes Ahimsa as: Embracing reverence and love for all, we experience oneness
Having chronic illness is very difficult, it is hard to not blame yourself, or to have constant negative thoughts running through your brains. With a condition like IC/PBS it becomes even harder. We have this illusion that if we could only eat the right way, manage our stress exactly right and control all the variables we could solve the IC/PBS puzzle. Unfortunately it is not that simple or easy. The truth is that we are not in control, and how we speak to ourselves when things don't go as planned has a deep effect. If we can learn to change the way we speak to ourselves, we have the opportunity to wind down our stress response instead of ramping it up.
Have you every said the following to yourself?
- I am so stupid, I know I can't eat ________ now I need to deal with this flare for the next 24 hours!
- Why can't I just be strong enough to get through this?
- Why can't I just remember to take my vitamins/medications on time?
- I know I should rest, but this activity _______ really needs to get done.
- Why can I not figure out what I am doing wrong? I should be able to fix this already!
This is something I experience often.I am sure we all have our own narrative in our minds along these lines. When we talk to ourselves in this manner does it speak of self compassion? of love for yourself? It sure doesn't to me, or the people in my life.
I learned a great analogy and method of this from my psychologist.
Step 1: Imagine someone in your life that you take care of or that you feel love for. A child, a parent, friend, or pet. For me it is my dog Sophie; she represents the innocent, pure love that we should all have for ourselves. She also just does whatever she needs to take care of herself. Tired? she naps. Hungry? She eats. Wants a walk? she lets us know.
Step 2: Now imagine your loved one is sick or injured. What would you do to take their pain away? Would you say that your love for them is boundless-that your love for them motivates you to expend energy and attention in ways you never thought possible?
Step 3: Now this is the exciting part: Apply that same love and compassion that you feel for your loved ones and flip it towards yourself. What does that look like? How does that idea make you feel?
This practice takes time! It has taken me years to get better at this, and I still fail all the time. Breaking habits is a challenge, but growth from change is a form of self care.
This self love and compassion is the basis of deep healing that we are all capable of. Each time one of those negative self talk runs through your head, turn it around into something compassionate towards yourself. Lets turn the above statements into something based in ahimsa.
- I am so stupid, I know I can't eat ________ now I need to deal with this flare for the next 24 hours! I made a poor choice and ate something I shouldn't have. That's ok; I'm not perfect. I am going to do some self care to ease my pain and take care of myself.
- Why can't I just be strong enough to get through this? I am strong enough to deal with this, but right now I need rest so I can continue fighting tomorrow.
- I know I should rest, but this activity _______ really needs to get done. I know this activity _____ needs to get done, but right now the best care for me is rest. Whatever it is can wait, or I can ask someone to help me. Asking for help is also a form of self love and self care.
- Why can I not figure out what I am doing wrong? I should be able to fix this already! I have a condition, it is not my fault, I am doing to best I can to manage.
- Why can't I just remember to take my vitamins/medications on time? I am having trouble remembering my medications and vitamins. I am only human, sometimes I make mistakes. I am going to see if I can change my routine to something easier. IE medication alarm on my phone, or a pill box set for the week.
One of the sweet things that happens when you start treating yourself with limitless love is that it greatly reduces the stress response. We all know that stress makes our pain worse; we see it daily. This approach brings less fighting and negativity, and more compassion, love and peace into our lives. Our thoughts are something that we are able to be in control of. Negative self talk is something that we have learned throughout our lives and it is something that we are capable of stopping. When I have these thoughts, I ask myself "is this true?" or "is this helpful?" or "would I speak to a friend this way?" I hope that these small and simple changes can impact your daily life as they have mine.