by Deborah Charnes
The first of the yoga sutras is ahimsa. It means do no harm, non-violence. Yet, we see and hear violence everywhere we turn. We become numb to it, accepting it as normal. Radhanath Swami, in his latest book, The Journey Within, points to the false ego as being the culprit for domination and exploitation.
“We forget our spiritual identity and identify instead with all the secondary, material aspects.”
We may think our society has advanced tremendously since prehistoric times, but there is widespread violence in our world, especially against women.
Consider that today one in six women in this country has been a victim of rape, or attempted rape. Nearly five million women in the United States will experience physical violence by an intimate partner, with one in four women being a victim of severe violence by an intimate partner at one point in their lives. According to Domestic Violence Statistics, a woman is beaten every nine seconds in this country.
Women are the creators, and should be honored and cherished; yet, oftentimes they are degraded and treated as inferior.
Pope John Francis spoke out against rape and domestic abuse saying, “The many forms of slavery, the commercialization and mutilation of the bodies of women, call out to us to be committed to defeat these types of degradation that reduce them to mere objects that are bought and sold.”
The rise of violence in our nation seems to be unparalleled, or at least we can no longer hide from hate crimes, with their disregard and disrespect for human lives.
Ana (not her real name) is a college-educated Bexar County woman. She married someone who seemed like the perfect partner. Ana says that marriage can be like buying a house. Some things are not apparent on the exterior. Once you move in, all the faults come to the surface.
“Greed was rampant. If I protested, I was told very abusively by my husband to shut up, that he loved his parents and his sisters more than he loved me.” Ana felt trapped. She couldn’t return to her parents, and she was pregnant within a few weeks of the wedding.
Her husband may have provided a comfortable roof under which to sleep, but not much else, emotionally or materially. “When the baby was born, when I asked for money for the child’s clothing or school expenses, the answer was, “Shut your mouth.’”
To outsiders, he was Mr. Perfect. Her family couldn’t comprehend the degradation and trauma she was experiencing. She stayed with him fearful that he would kidnap her offspring and leave the country. “That thought scared me to death.”
It was faith that always got Ana through her ordeals. “A month after my daughter’s 16th birthday, I took her, some clothes, sheets, kitchen essentials and some cash that he always had at home for emergencies. I drove away to the nearest town,” Ana recalls about her escape.
“Nobody has understood the depths of cruelty, rape, physical, emotional and psychological violence I have suffered,” says Ana.
It has been nearly 30 years since she took the risk and left the man who was supposed to love, honor and protect her. She is married to a loving man now, but the past does not escape her. The physical, emotional and verbal abuse that she lived with for almost two decades still pops into her mind, plunging her into depression.
“The only remedy is that I increase my devotions, chanting and reading the scriptures.” She recognizes that these forms of yoga continue to be essential to her sanity.
“Clients like ‘Ana’ come to see me often because they recognize from my personal story that I have been there,” says Elizabeth Garland, M.S., CPLC, MNLP, GRS, the founder of Soul Nourishing. “As a domestic abuse and assault survivor, I understand how the triggers are still there. Many of these women were surrounded by fear, anger, helplessness, humiliation, anxiety and/or lack of confidence.”
Garland helps her clients to develop that love and appreciation for life and others. “We come to the other end of the bridge as survivors and guides, sharing love with one another and embracing that saying in our hearts, ‘Do no harm.’ Let there be love in this world, and let it start now.”
A registered yoga teacher and yoga therapist, Deborah Charnes carries additional certificates in Reiki, Ayurveda and acupressure. Charnes has created a series of Chill Out workshops to help others help themselves through yoga and meditation. Learn more at www.thenamastecounsel.com or 210-381-1846. To connect with Elizabeth Garland and learn more about Soul Nourishing, visit www.soulnourishing.com.