Non violence in daily life

The first apartment I rented on my own in Amsterdam was a tiny shithole in a busy neighbourhood that was very loud and smelly, there was a street market parallel to it so that was mostly to blame. The rent was €995 per month and it was so old and poorly taken care of that there was a constant wind that moved through the house, no central heating, and it was impossible to keep warm. The floors were old hard wood with gaps and pieces missing and the bathroom, well, let’s not talk about the bathroom!

I found the place on maarktplats and rented it via an agency. I was happy to find a place because those of us who live here know how hard the rental market is so I took it and gave it as much love and care as I could afford at the time to make it liveable. After settling in I got a phone call from a man who lived in another city outside Amsterdam asking about the agency that I rented from. He said he was the owner of the agency and the company that was in charge of renting my place to me had opened a franchise of his company in Amsterdam but they never paid him any further fees so he was investigating. I gave him all the contact details I had but all phones had been disconnected and the physical office was gone now. I started talking to my neighbours about it all only to find out that we had all been illegally rented a house that was zoned for the social sector. I was livid!

I contacted the rental commission to get some help because I didn’t want to be doing anything illegal, as I was still in my waiting period for my residency permit, but I also didn’t want to be taken advantage of. They said they would investigate the property and they ended up taking our landlord to court and we all got a rent reduction and the difference back in the rent we had already paid. This really pissed off the landlord.

One day while working at my little table/desk in the living room there was a knock on the door, it was the builder who had been there before to repair things when I moved in. He said he was there to work on some plumbing this time so I let him in. As soon as he was in the door another man follows him so I assume he is there to help too. This new man came past the builder and is now walking with me down the hall to the kitchen. The builder stays at the front door, blocking it, while this man introduces himself as the owner of the building. He tells me how furious he is that we have taken him to court and that he wants me out of the house. He then pulls a contract and a pen out of his jacket and explains to me that I have to sign this, relinquishing my rights to the house and that I must leave. I told him I refused because I knew what he was doing was illegal and I had rights as a tenant. He then grabbed my hand and tried to force me to sign the contract and I pulled away. Things escalated very quickly from there and the next thing I knew he had both hands around my throat and was screaming at me that I had no right to be there and I had to get out of his building. Time stopped!

I knew my neighbours were home, as the walls were paper thin, so I yelled for them to come down while I worked my way out of his grip, thankfully I’m very strong, and stepped out into the garden so more people could see us and hear us. Now we had an audience. The neighbours are now in my house blocking the door so the landlord can’t leave while they get the police there. The landlord then asks me to hit him!! He wants to know why I won’t fight back. I simply told him that I don’t believe in violence and he just couldn’t comprehend it and gave up the physical attack with the most bewildered look on his face. Maybe it was because now we had an audience but I could see the confusion in his eyes. He was enraged, he wanted a fight but he just didn’t get it. I could go on and on about what happened next but that’s not the point of this post. The point is that even when confronted with violence I refused to surrender and be that person and in that surrender I won.

As animals we can tend to react violently without warning, whether it be in thought, word or physical force. Yoga brings us back to the present moment, it’s like time slows down the more present you become. My response to him was my new natural instinct after many years of yoga. We do not ever have to give in to our animal impulses. We are much stronger than that.

Keep this in mind the next time you are on the mat. Be non violent to yourself. Don’t push farther into asana, don’t judge yourself. We can be our own worst enemy so if you want to start to practice non violence, begin with yourself. Just work with what you have an be happy that you exist another day.

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