A yogi’s the guide to election 2016.
Like many of you, I was shocked and saddened by the unnecessary hostility, intense fear-mongering and unethical campaigning of the 2016 Presidential election. I was even more shocked and saddened by the outcome of the presidential election. I was lucky: I was in a yoga studio for 5 hours straight on Wednesday morning so I had more than enough time to process my many emotions in a caring, compassionate and safe space. I stealthily avoided checking social media because I refused to contribute to a panic, fear, and anxiety over the outcome of this vote. For days I held a safe space for yogi’s and friends to grieve in my classes. Together we cried, vented, questioned, meditated, prayed. In my adulthood I’ve been oddly quiet about my political leanings because I believe that aligning myself with one ‘camp’ is a form of division and hostility. However, I believe I must share the wisdom I’ve gleaned over the past week. I cannot stay quiet about lessons to be learned from this divisive election season which arise from the depth of Yoga’s wise tradition.
Please consider these 3 steps as response to the 2016 election season.
A yogi’s the guide to election 2016.
Number 1: Practice Ahimsa.
The world is not made up of “us and them.” Although human beings look different from each other, we are all made up of the same Inner Light of awareness and consciousness called purusha
. Because we are all manifestations of the same Divine Light and the same Consciousness, any act of divisiveness, anger or hostility toward someone else is also against yourself. As a yogi, the bedrock of every single choice you make and every single word you speak should be ahimsa (non-harming). This is non-negotiable.
There will always be people in the world who disagree with you. They have the right to an opinion. It is also your right to have an opinion. However, it is not ahimsa to impose ideas and ideologies upon another person with acts of emotional or physical violence and anger. The two seminal texts of Yoga remind us that human beings are united in creation and connected in spirit, despite outward differences.
From the Yoga Sutras Chapter 1, verse 16:
“Self-realization [is when] there is indifference to the primordial nature of desire, as everything and everyone is experienced as one’s own True Self.” (trans. Mukunda Stiles)
From Chapter 6, verse 29 of the Bhagavad Gita:
“Touched in this way by God, this yogi sees unity and the True Self (Divinity) everywhere, in every creature, in all creation.”
In response to the 2016 election, ahimsa requires you to venture into the unknown territory of speaking compassionately to persons across party lines, listening without anger, and treating every person as their True Self. It also requires you to share your support for regarding policies that promote peace and non-violence on both street and systematic levels. Please do so relentlessly.
Number 2: Relieve inner suffering.
Yes, after the results of the Presidential campaign were announced, many of us felt terrified, frustrated, insecure, heartbroken, and angry. But each of us has the responsibility to address and heal our own suffering before it seeps out and expands in our communities
. When we let seeds of hatred and fear would grow rampantly in our own psyche, these debilitating emotions grow more rooted in our communities. Yoga teaches us to weed out the crazy distracting thoughts that are the root of these anxieties through dharana
(concentration) and meditation
Every single moment, you have one choice: love or fear? I implore you to choose love over fear. By doing so, you strengthen your True Self and your connection to the Divine. You strengthen your community and you uphold the worth of all sentient beings.
From the Yoga Sutras Chapter 2 verse 10: “When these primal causes of suffering exist in subtle, yet potential form, they are to be reduced, then overcome by the process of turning inward and returning to their true source: the True Self.”
From the Chapter 2 verse 25 of the Bhagavad Gita: “The cessation of your present pain and sorrow will depend on how well you overcome your ignorance of your True Self that lives within you.”
In response to the rampant anger and fear resulting from election 2016, it is your responsibility to relieve your own inner suffering through meditation and turning inward and so that you can be compassionate towards others who are suffering.
Number 3: Take action.
It may remain a disheartening fact that our two party American political system seems to be broken and ineffective. However, your vote and your voice still count. Along with the presidency, America’s communities also elect congressional leaders. At the state level and at the national level, we have the ear of our elected leaders. It is our responsibility to stay vigilant to the activities in our state congressional houses which will pass laws that actually do affect our every day lives. It is our responsibility to write letters, make phone calls, and sign petitions in support of the things that we care about. If you care about getting guns off the street and making our neighborhoods safer for children, please call your representatives telling them so. If you care about wealth discrepancy and the suffering caused by inequality and poverty, please stay vigilant about financial bills that govern state budgets. If you care about human rights, equality, the inherent worth of all persons, then you need to be telling your Senators how we can welcome refugees and relieve the suffering of people on the margins of society. Can you change the world with one letter? I don’t know. But the point is this: you still have a voice and you should be using it.
From the Chapter 3 verse 39 of the Bhagavad Gita:
“This is the path of selfless, God-dedicated action. By making this your path, you can live a spiritual life and yet stay fully active in the world. You can remain a [woman or] man of action, achieving your very best, and yet not be caught by the worldly.”
In response to the 2016 election, please heed the fervent pinnacle message of the Bhagavad Gita: “Do your work in accordance with the principles of ahimsa and peace, and let go of results.”
Remember: everything is possible. Millions of human beings are right now awakening to an uplifting of spiritual consciousness.
Thank you for listening to the wisdom of the yoga tradition. Thank you for being open to a worldview that is completely inclusive. If you seek further guidance, I suggest the following thought leaders for inspiration on how to be a Sacred Activist:
Andrew Harvey, Institute for Sacred Activism
Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation
Happy Moving Foreward.