Ahisma is the term for “non-violence” or sometimes it’s referred to as “non-injury” and I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately as to what it means to live in harmony with ahisma. It’s easy to get caught up in the superficial meanings of ahisma, but when we really start thinking about the true, deep meaning of non-violence toward ourselves and others, it becomes clear that this may be one of the more difficult yamas (or moral obligations) to live.

I’m thinking about receiving gifts. For many of us, especially those who are neurodivergent and/or chronically ill, we learned early on not to ask for anything. Either it was a financial thing; our families simply didn’t have the money to fulfill childish wishes for toys or games. Or, we learned as we grew older that asking for things like accommodations or help simply meant we were unheard, unanswered, and left thinking we didn’t deserve any help.

Automatically pushing away gifts or offers of support is an act of violence. The other person is (hopefully) acting in good faith with you; they actually really want to help. And yet, you are pushing their overture away. You deny them the chance to do some good in your life, and you’re denying yourself the opportunity to receive that good.

I get it. I understand the knee-jerk reaction to anyone offering to help. But stubborn self-reliance is a trauma response. It’s your mind’s way of saying “someone has hurt me in the past, so I won’t let them get close to me”. It’s okay to receive help when offered. It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s even, dare I say it, healthy to do those two things.

The violence you commit against yourself by pushing away help doesn’t service any purpose. Instead, of giving in to the old habits of denying help, allow yourself to think about receiving. It may feel odd at first, but smile an say “thank you”. Learn that it is safe to receive, even if you have to start small. That’s how you live ahisma.