The vow of non-harm
Linda: When we imagine the depths that we can move to if we live a life without inner conflict, our motivation to practice harmlessness with others and ourselves increases. We want to find ways to be sure that we are living without violence toward ourselves or anyone else, especially to those with whom we are the closest.
Reflect on the following words as a guided visualization (inspired by Wayne Muller) and then form the essence of the meditation into your own words. First, consider the word harmlessness and see what that word means to you. We can take a moment to assess whether we are ready to make a vow inside ourselves to harmlessness. We can decide whether we are ready to think about ourselves without violent language or condemnation of any kind. As soon as we are ready to honor ourselves in this way, another vow is likely to follow to be kind, considerate and caring of those around us. We can walk on the earth at peace when we make a vow to stop the pain of violent language that infects our minds and that spills over to cause harm to others.
First read these words and then make them your own so that you can gently allow your eyes to close to go inside. Sit in a relaxed position and follow the breath into the core of your body. Let the breath guide you inside. Let the breath guide you into yourself, to remember who you are. With each breath, feel the gentle rhythm of your life, the rising, the falling, the expansion and the contraction.
Feel how the breath breathes itself. Feel how the breath keeps us alive. The breath guides us into the depth of our heart and spirit. With each breath softening the space around the center of our chest, opening space to the heart, allowing a softening. Imagine these few simple words: From this breath forward, I will do no harm to myself or to others. Neither in my thoughts or my words, nor my actions will I do harm. I will refuse to use violence toward myself or anyone else. I will do no harm.
We can gently become aware of any resistance we may meet in our body to taking the vow of non-harm. We can meet any resistance with understanding. Caress the resistance with the vow of non-harm. I will not judge, criticize, diagnose, or in any way use language to destroy the graciousness of my spirit or that of another. From this breath forward, I will not use any violence against others or myself even in the secret privacy of my own thoughts.
From this breath forward, I will strive to do my very best to do no harm to others. I will touch my fears, confusion, mistakes, and failures with mercy, kindness and compassion. I will touch them all with gentleness, so I can learn who I am. I will not treat myself as others have treated me, with violence. I will not reject myself; I will accept every single part of me. I will walk on the earth with peace.
Notice any shifts in the body posture. Be aware of what changes in your body. See if you are becoming more relaxed. I will treat myself with kindness. I will use no language that brings grievous injury to myself or anyone else. I am the voice of your inner sweetheart; I am always with you; I am the part of you that is wise and loving. chose to hear me. I vow to cultivate the inner sweetheart, to deeply, fully love myself and to consistently allow my love to radiate to those around me. Then gently allow your eyes to open.
We can welcome these words offered in this vow of non-harm, and view them as a starter kit. We can go on to make this affirmation our own. Our own words will be much more powerful and effective than someone else’s. We can repeat our own version many, many times, as often as we wish, whenever we need to be reminded that we are wonderful just as we are. Our words are powerful and remind us of how much love we have to give to others. We all lapse and forget, and break our vows repeatedly. We don’t have to blame ourselves for imperfection. We can be gentle with ourselves as we learn to love. We can learn, slowly, and gently. We need only take the vow again.
Harmlessness is a significant guideline. When we are challenged to make decisions about how to best proceed in our relationship, we can run our decision possibilities through the fine sieve of harmlessness. That process will serve us every time. Sometimes the choices are small ones, that won’t have big consequences but there are others that may have huge consequences. Examples that give us pause are disclosing our own previous or current wrongdoing or dissatisfaction about some aspect of our relationship with our partner.
Although it is generally a good policy to have no secrets or lies in a relationship to have a strong and sturdy one, there are exceptions to the rule. Honesty, responsibility and respect are foundational in a strong partnership. While transparency is a requirement for deep emotional intimacy, no one, no family member, trusted friend, clergy, or therapist has the authority to advise us to disclose secret information, for we are the ultimate responsible party and will live with the ramifications of disclosing or concealing.
Even if honesty and transparency is generally a skillful way to proceed, the harm to other and self must be weighted regarding disclosing and so must the harm to other and self be assessed if we conceal. The real challenge is to look deeply enough into the self to see what is truly a decision based on not causing harm and not use either concealment or disclosure as an excuse for justification to indulge ourselves.
There is a place for concealment when the preservation of the relationship for the long term is at stake. Concealment can be a demonstration of our respect for our partner, and the most honoring of our choices, even if holding the secret harms us. The overall level of harm may be greater if we disclose. Even though transparency is preferable in the vast majority of cases, exceptions do exist. Harmlessness is the most powerful alternative to the one size fits all policy. The only way that this policy works is if we each are ruthlessly honest with ourselves as we make our decision. To conceal must never be used as an easy out to not deal with what the truth will provoke.
There are times when we are especially challenged to reflect carefully on the message that we need to deliver to our partner. If we take the time to form what we are feeling and needing in our relationship, by including non-harm in our planning, we are likely to find ways of speaking our truth without blame and judgment. There are ways to be emotionally honest and not cause harm to us or to our partner. If we take on the practice of harmlessness, and practice diligently, we will become adept in that art and our relationship is likely to thrive as a result.