As the days go by, I am beginning to see how much of my perception of reality rides on the daily news filter of my Facebook feed. In the past, I have been a very “keep your politics to yourself” person unless at a dinner party or private conversation. But back then, not everyone’s opinions made for mass-audience mouthpieces; nothing is sacred anymore and with the pervasiveness of social media, everyone becomes a pundit of sorts on something or another. When this is reinforced ad infinitum, it works like a good advertisement played over and over during each commercial break of your favorite show. Where the majority of my feed is directing my attention these days is the heated climate of the primaries.
You see, in American politics, I am no pundit. Many of my friends try to pin me down, asking me to choose a side. I cannot always say for me it is that black or white, or blue and red. When asked, historically my standard reply is that I want to vote for the quality of the candidate, not just in rhetoric but action. This election year poses some unique challenges: when the quality isn’t there and no single candidate can influence others without party affiliations to back their agendas up then what is a lone yogi to do?
In American politics as in yoga, I have been served up my own experience of it, complete with the blinders and filters that either my family passed down via politics or our local community, or my teachers in their Shakti pat. I don’t think any of us can avoid this truth, especially those that lack tenure in life experience. Am I a uniquely individualized free-thinking voter, or just someone who can apply free will, create action with my interpretation of the influential teachings of others to my perspectives on life?
This seems to be the battleground for true liberation of consciousness.
Even doing yoga, how conscious are we? Chances are we remain wildly uninformed, misinformed or misguided. Illusion and delusion are seldom just the “other guy’s” problem. Seeing some of the dynamics in this year’s political race painfully affirms this for me.
I am no pundit, but I am no schlep either. Have I bore witness having worked with then First-Lady Hillary Rodham-Clinton and high level government officials? Yes. Did I do PR for Congressional candidates? Yes. Did my family serve in military and foreign policy in a variety of conventional and equally creative ways? Yes. Did my family vote 99% the same? Yes. Did I follow suit? Some ways yes, and some ways no.
What I appreciate about this year’s otherwise frustrating political quest for POTUS is how it seems more than ever people’s eyes are opening and my feed friends are being more vocal and passionate about their politics, many perhaps for the very first time. This is exciting when individuals are realizing en masse that if they don’t stand up now, their votes may not mean much later.
Countdown to conventions are at a contentious fever pitch and headlines such as the maligned Panama Papers and campaign spending are two Molotov cocktails to the gas fire rhetoric heating up the networks. I am not sure this is a sit on the sidelines type of election year. For the first time I would say it is not ok to not voice an opinion, whatever that opinion might be, because we have lost the luxury of silence. Meditation up in the mountain is great to gain clarity and insights, but get ready to dust off the saffron robes when it comes to casting ballots.
What I think true yogis can bring to this election, if you can weed past the naiveté and well-intended albeit vacuous meme new-age speak, is nothing sort of profound. When I think of the characteristics of a yogi voter, here are the attributes that come to the fore:
- Yogis have a conception of oneness; as such they tend to care about other people, sentient beings, the planet and its resources. Their vote isn’t about how much more in taxes they would need to pay as a potential disruptor of lifestyle.
- They are in a service-related industry and seldom are in this line of work because they greedy and opportunistic.
- They have some sort of following that looks up to them as an example of a more balance way of being. Being in the position of teacher gives you a platform upon which to share ideas or inspire action in others.
- Ideally, patient loving yogis are quick to refrain from isolating or judging others of differing opinions. This is where I often times grapple with yogis getting into debates becoming quick to lash out or slam opposing viewpoints. If we are all one, any breadth of spectrum on a concept (all of which are illusory in general to begin with, right?) can be very widespread from one side of an argument to the other. There is a lot of room for gray; there is space for people to respectfully disagree.
- On the subject of spectrum, yogis tend to have the ability to mobilize locally because of the communities they build through teaching but also tend to have an international mindsight with many of them holding the experience of travel above and beyond material accumulation.
- As teachers, they have the basis of incredible wisdom material at their disposal to reflect upon for self-study and going deeper and finding corollaries and insights. Most teacher trainings have yogis delving into the Bhagavad Gita, the Yamas of the Sutras, the Ramayana, Mahabharata and other ancient texts.
To summarize, this is what our impact can be each day as yoga teachers participating in this process at a bold inflection point in our nation’s history: being aware that we are all one and to opt out of solipsistic thinking as we live each day in service to others. Remembering that it’s about being good stewards of what we have to impart wisdom from a place of humility and not arrogance.
There needs to be deeply rooted in our hearts the belief that we are here with divine purpose and that no step in that direction big or small, will be in vain.
This requires discipline, devotion and determination but who better than the yogi to have cultivated those attributes in earnest. Together maybe we can change the world.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead