Being a military lawyer, the principle of humanity is a concept I learned about right at the beginning of my training. It’s part of the ‘four principles’ of international humanitarian law, designed to limit suffering during an armed conflict. The principle of humanity forbids the infliction of all suffering, injury or destruction not necessary for achieving the legitimate purpose of a conflict.
Now where’s the link to yoga or personal growth you might wander? Trust me, it’ll come.
Applying the principle of humanity not to a context of an armed conflict, but to (my) life in general, might sound very strange at first. But when you think of setting your own boundaries and having others respect them in order to avoid unnecessary suffering, it is not so strange after all. You see, I have always had trouble setting and guarding my own boundaries, for I used to always be afraid of others not liking me for it. The opinion or perception of others was so important to me, that I didn’t want to let them down and show them I actually disagreed with them, was hurt by something they’d said or stayed in a situation that wasn’t good for me at all.
Besides from getting completely disconnected with myself, even hating myself and the way I looked, I also hurt loved ones by not being true to who I am. And that is probably the part I regret the most. For a long time they didn’t always get to see the person I am, for down the line, I’d forgotten who that person really was myself.
But no more. Through yoga I reconnected with myself. I finally got to know me and actually found out I like myself damn it. After 30 years I can finally say that I like the person I am, that I kick ass at times, and most of all that I am proud of the woman I’ve become. That I’m strong and capable and that I finally care more about not crossing my own boundaries than for others not liking me for it. And this is an amazing development, for I now know that whatever happens, I have me and I like having me to turn to.
Therefore investing in myself, taking care of my body through yoga and proper nutrition, taking time to check in with myself and find out what it is that I need and feel, is actually important and not at all selfish or less relevant. For I also found out that by doing just this, I become the best me I can be, and fulfill my part in this life – this universe if you like – the best way I can. I even believe I owe this to life itself and the people around me, and I suppose this is what people mean when they say that you first have to love yourself before you can love others. I honestly never got that and thought it a bit of a cliche, until now.
So, back to the principle of humanity, to having boundaries that protect you and the people around you from unnecessary suffering, injury or destruction. By being true to yourself, by taking time to find out who it is that you really are and exploring and guarding your own boundaries, you could avoid at least some of the unnecessary suffering, injury and destruction to both yourself and others. I learned this the hard way, but learned nonetheless. I now know that by taking this time, by putting in the effort, the world could just become a little bit better, for then I am honoring life the best way I can, by fully living mine.
This thought I find very empowering. And like in armed conflict, of course not all suffering, injury and destruction can be avoided. Life is life, ever changing and at times very challenging. But by simply consciously taking a couple of breaths and observing the quality of that breath, by checking in with yourself, you’ve already made a lot of progress and probably already avoided some potential unnecessary suffering in the future.
So, from my own experience, I strongly urge you to take that time, to take those couple of minutes to check in with yourself, to explore who you are and what is going on within you. Be it through breathing consciously, meditating or practicing yoga, I feel you honor your life the best way you can and by doing so the world and people around you.
Simply put, life requires you to be a humble warrior at times, respecting the boundaries of others and acknowledging when you are wrong and crossed those of others. But, remember, never stay in that humble warrior too long. Once your done and learned your lesson, rise up to that full warrior again. Be fierce and have others respect your boundaries too. Applying that very same principle of humanity to you and all that you are.
I am very interested in your thoughts on this topic, so please share them with me by using the comment box below or emailing me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great day!