Non-Violence in Nature

I don’t think I’m a violent person. I don’t seek out destructive behaviors or harmful words, commit arson or intentionally create drama. So why do I need to be reminded to practice non-violence?

The Yoga Sutras—one of the oldest texts on yoga—offers 10 ethical principles to live by, called the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances).

These principles are pretty broad and can apply as much or as little to our life as we choose. As one of my teachers says, we can do anything we want . . . there are just consequences.

These guidelines start with ahimsa, usually translated as non-violence, non-harming, or compassion. While large acts of outright violence are frowned upon in most any culture, how can we apply the idea of non-violence in nature and our active outdoor adventures?

  1. Pack it in, pack it out. If you bring something onto a trail, make sure it comes back with you. Hopefully you’re already not intentionally littering, but sometimes we can accidentally leave wrappers or paper behind. Bring a sense of mindfulness to your next adventure and make sure everything that went out comes home and is disposed of properly. Want more info? Check out organizations like Leave No Trace, which aims to educate people on outdoor ethics.
  2. If you see something, do something about it. As mentioned in the first point, hopefully we’re not intentionally disrespecting our natural surroundings. However, sometimes things get missed. Help out your fellow hikers, campers, skiers, and bikers by carrying a small pouch in your pack to pick up debris or garbage you might find along a trail.
  3. Be nice to the animals; we’re playing in their homes. Know the facts about what kind of critters you might run into on your next adventure and how to handle an interaction. Colorado alone is home to dozens of endangered and threatened species; let’s commit to creating a safe home for these critters.
  4. Be nice to the people. We share this land with all kinds of creatures, including humans. How can we better be in community with our own species? How can we share our happiness, abundance, or care with people we might run across in our adventures?
  5. Be nice to the plants and trees. Look, smell, take pictures, but don’t harm the foliage. Read up on what plants are okay to harvest, and which ones should be left alone, including Rocky Mountain Columbines, the Colorado state flower.
  6. Be nice to you. Ahimsa means non-harming on all levels, including that voice inside your head. If there are words like “should” or “can’t,” and thoughts like “I’m not _____ enough,” ask yourself if there are ways to adjust your thought patterns into compassion. No matter the challenge, you are enough just how you are. Stop, listen, and know that you already have all the answers.


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