Do We Really Make Conscious Choices? Learn How To. One of the basic tenets of yoga is Ahimsa or Non-Violence Ahimsa is a way of life. When we approach life with the understanding that we are all connected then we realize that to harm others also means that we harm ourselves. And yet we often practice self-harm. We berate ourselves with negative thoughts and tell ourselves that we are somehow not enough. Choosing foods that are not nourishing to our bodies, we drink too much alcohol or gorge ourselves until we can no longer button up our pants.
We make life choices that are not in our best interest. Polluting our environment, killing animals, or hurting someone else which are all forms of violence. With each choice we make, we can choose to live a life that is filled with love or one that is filled with violence. Physically, we are inextricably connected to our environment. The foods that we eat or the water that we drink is ingested into our bodies. Connecting us completely to our surrounding environment. And yet our food choices often harm the very thing we should protect, our environment and therefore ourselves.
By choosing to eat meat not only do we harm the cows that are being slaughtered for our own consumption, but we also harm the very environment we need for our own survival. Fifty-one percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are caused by animal agriculture. Producing just one hamburger uses the same amount of fossil fuel as a small car. According to the EPA, raising animals for food consumes half the water in the United States. So why do we make choices that are unsustainable, even violent towards ourselves and our planet?
Conscious Choice Making
When we are aware of our behaviors, not simply reacting on autopilot, we are able to choose to honor our thoughts, deeds, and actions. “Negative thoughts give rise to violence…they are caused by greed, anger or delusion…Through introspection comes the end of pain and ignorance.” Yoga Sutras II.34 So often people say, I could never give up meat. I love a good steak on the barbecue, and yet this is an action taken from habit, not from conscious choice.
Perhaps we have a memory or ”Samskara ” of that steak at a fourth of July party. We associate the steak with all of those positive memories. Which leads us to desire or “Vasana “, The next time we are hoping to recreate that happy feeling we reach for the steak. That is our “Karma” or action. And yet, this is not a conscious choice. When we consider the damage that is being done not only to ourselves but to other sentient beings as well as our planet we would not eat the meat. The action being taken would not be in alignment with our true nature.
As your desire is, so is your will and your deed. As your deed is so is your destiny. (Brihadaranyaka IV.4.5) – Upanishads Becoming Conscious of our underlying desires free from past conditioning recognizes that ultimately being rooted in compassion and love is our source. Violence takes us away from that source. Love brings us back again.