Experimenting with Ahimsa: Gayatri Mantra

When we were asked to think about which yama or niyama we wanted to work with for our first experiment, I was immediately drawn to the concept of ahimsa. Non-harming. This concept is one I have thought about and applied to my life before in some ways, but there is still a significant situation in my life that frequently arouses un-yogic thoughts: my job. I make my living waiting tables. I’ve been doing it for over two years and it has certainly been a learning experience. But I have to admit that it is very taxing work sometimes. Dealing with difficult customers is a regular occurrence. I also work in an environment where my coworkers and I often vent to each other, so we all carry the burden of each other’s negativity. Collectively, unintentionally, we help create a toxic working environment that saps energy from everyone involved. I frequently leave work feeling exhausted, drained, squeezed-out.

I wondered if this concept of ahimsa could help me break out of that. I wondered if, instead of getting angry at rude customers or taking up other people’s negativity, I could choose to do something else instead. I didn’t know what that something else might be at first. One day at work, it came to me. I was feeling upset and, suddenly, out of nowhere, I heard the Gayatri Mantra in my head. We had used the Gayatri Mantra a couple of times in class, and something about that mantra in particular resonated with me. I loved its message about meditating on the creator, letting our minds be inspired and filled with divine qualities. I felt that these were exactly the qualities I wanted to cultivate in order to stop doing harm through my thoughts. So I decided that every time I felt upset at work—or every time a situation arose that might possibly cause me to think toxic thoughts—I would chant the Gayatri Mantra internally. I wrote the mantra (along with its English translation) on a scrap of notebook paper and took it to work with me every day.