Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Search for Peace

by Marci Moberg 

©Enid Johnstone

Everyone is searching for peace --peace within themselves, with others, in their environments, and in their homes.  Still, somehow peace escapes out the back door, and continues to elude people.  The search for peace faces multiple obstacles along the way that block the path and keep serenity at bay.  One supporting mechanism to finding peace now is through the practice of ahimsa.

Ahimsa, according to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is one of the five yamas, or ethical practices, that together form the first limb of the eight-limbed path of yoga.  While often translated as non-killing, the concept carries more nuance and depth.  

Sri Swami Satchidananda describes ahimsa as not causing pain. What he means by that is not causing pain in thought, word, and deed.  While many think of this as an externally focused practice, it is just as much an inside job, because neglecting the practice of ahimsa towards one’s self can create harm to others. 

Practicing ahimsa in one’s every day life may seem simple at first. On the surface it appears easy to not harm others and cause them pain.  People easily identify avoiding physical harm, using words unwisely like slandering another person, and other deeds that appear to overtly create pain and harm to another person.  

This makes the initial layer of the practice easy for many to adopt.  But the practice is deeper.  First the practice should include beings other than human beings.  This includes not killing or harming insects, eating a vegetarian or vegan diet, and even being mindful of the treatment of plants and trees. 

Second, the practice should include the way our words and deeds affect others in subtle ways to cause harm that may otherwise not be obvious to us.  The effects of our actions on others are subtle and easily missed if we are not mindful of another person’s perspective and the potential ripples our actions may create. 

While we may have the best of intentions, beautiful intentions do not always result in beautiful action.  It is this delicate balance that makes practicing ahimsa a true art, rather than a hard science. 

While practicing ahimsa with word and deed can be challenging in subtle ways, even more difficult is the practice of ahimsa in thought.  The ego rarely comes up with something nice to say about another person.  It often moves us into a place of survival, protection, and defensiveness automatically without even taking pause. 

One of the beings it often most attacks is one’s self. I discovered that practicing ahimsa with one’s self truly requires a careful look at one’s thoughts throughout the day and the subtle messages we tell ourselves that perhaps are not so helpful.  Sometimes the thought is obviously harmful, like telling ourselves that we are unintelligent for forgetting to do something.  Other times the language is subtler. 

When I started to watch my own thoughts I discovered that negative messages that were harming me were sneakily sliding into what otherwise appeared to be efforts to be productive.  For example, when trying to get myself to focus on something like my research for my dissertation, I would tell myself internally that I was banned from checking e-mail or prohibited from calling a friend back so I would finish the task. 

This harsh language with myself set me up for an uncomfortable reality where I felt like doing my dissertation or any other task was punishment.  It drained all the enjoyment out of things I needed to spend my time on that I truly loved.  Sometimes it caused rebellious behavior in me as I rebelled against my harsh instructions to focus and checked my e-mail anyway, like a teenager rebelling against her parents.  In the end, this harsh internal language to myself was not helping me be productive, nor nurturing me. 

And the ripple effects it created were probably more harmful than I am even aware of now, and a pattern I continue to watch and slowly undo.

It is said that when the Buddha and other saints practiced ahimsa in the forest, animals would only kill if they were hungry and would otherwise dwell peacefully together.  The practice and non-practice of ahimsa I believe has more subtle energetic affects on the environment and relationships around us than we realize, especially with ourselves. 

SriDharma Mittra always emphasizes that what we focus our thought on is also where we direct our prana energy. As a result, it is key that we are sensitive to where we are directing prana.  In the end, if someone wants to truly experience peace with others, with his or her environment, and above all within his or herself, ahimsa is an essential element in unlocking the serenity we seek. 


Marci Moberg came to yoga, meditation, and mindfulness through her own spiritual and healing journey.  First connecting to yoga in college as a form of exercise, she later connected to its deeper roots as an avid student and practitioner of many ancient contemplative traditions.  Marci is grateful to be a dedicated student of Felix Lopez, a former Buddhist monk and energy healer.  She is a Registered Yoga Teacher (RYT) and is currently completing the 500-Hour Life of a Yogi Teacher Training with Sri Dharma Mittra.  She teaches yoga, meditation, and mindfulness in the greater Washington DC area.  Off the mat and cushion Marci works in international development, is an experienced conflict resolution practitioner, and a doctoral candidate at George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  You can learn more about Marci and find her reflections on the study and practice of different spiritual traditions here: and

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Yogi Favorites (5) ~ Beet Salad

Ah beets, Nature's rubies...

Several years ago, it was reported in entertainment news that Mariah Carey was on a diet of purple foods, because she was convinced their anti-aging benefits would keep wrinkles at bay. As gimmicky as it may sound, there is some rationale behind this one!

While it's not recommended to limit oneself to such a small group of foods (balance and diversity is key), thinking of nutrition in terms of color can be an interesting and fun way to eat healthy. Betalain, the pigment in beets that gives them their beautiful red hue, is a powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant that can reduce high blood pressure. 

Beets also help detox the body by purifying the blood and acting as a liver tonic. Combined with Vitamin E packed sunflower seeds and tarragon, a powerhouse herb full of vitamins and minerals also used as an appetite stimulant and digestive aid, Sri Dharma's Beet Salad is deceivingly light but can truly serve as a meal on its own or a great appetizer.

4 raw beets, grated
1 cup sunflower seeds, raw or toasted
1 tbs. chopped fresh tarragon
Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, to taste

Begin by washing and trimming the beets as needed. If you buy beets with greens, you can use the greens for juicing or in any recipes that calls for dark greens. Grating the beets is a chore if you don’t have a food processor. If grating by hand I recommend the boxy type grater, it keeps the shreds from flying all over the place and staining everything they fall on. 

Once you have grated the beets you can add the sunflower seeds, and tarragon and oil. Tarragon leaves are longer than the thyme I used and chopping them releases their essential oils.

 If you choose to use raw sunflower seeds you can soak them prior to making the salad to soften. I usually rinse once then leave them sitting on a wet paper towel for 20 minutes so they don’t get too soft. I forgot to do this when I was prepping this time, so note the seeds will soak up the juice of the beets and soften that way as well if you let the salad sit for 15-20 minutes.

If you use roasted seeds, add them at the last minute before eating so they do not get soft! 

Stir all the ingredients together. Makes 3-6 servings.

Text: Lana J. Lee & Amy Stinchcombe Pictures: Amy Stinchcombe & Enid Johnstone
Recipe Source and Sprouting Instructions: The Dharma Yoga LOAY Teacher Training Manual

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Yogic Wisdom from Sri Dharma Mittra, Part III

You may remember our last collection of quotes from Sri Dharmaji; we thought it was about time for a few more!

Enjoy, and share with those who may benefit…

1.  Chanting OM brings the Divine’s attention to you.

2.  As you go deeper, obstacles become more subtle.

3.  Everything needs an update.

4.  Fear attracts accidents.

5.  After 20 minutes of Positive Breathing, you are ready to face a firing squad.

6.  If you have trouble with it, just pretend.

7.  Purifying the mind develops contentment.

8..   If you have a little spiritual knowledge, you should share it.  This is the highest form of charity.

9.  Sit still, meditate, and all the answers will come.

10.  Let's dedicate our practice to something or someone beyond this personal self; that they may enjoy it through our mind & senses.

We thank Dharma Yoga teacher Katherine Labonte for compiling this list of Sri Dharma Quotes.