(If you’ve had enough of the election AND have already voted, feel free to skip to the 5th paragraph, noted below. If you HAVEN’T voted yet and are not sure if you are going to, read it all, and then vote!)
Of course, early voting has begun and you can vote now through Nov. 5 and then Tuesday, November 8, election day. Elections are, of course, decided, supposedly, in part by the people who show up, so SHOW UP and cast your vote. Even if you don’t like the options, write yourself in, or me if you feel the need, or whatever, but at least vote. (And I know all the arguments for “not” voting but having voted in every election, even “off-year” ones, since I was 18, I know that “not” voting is, in actuality, voting in the way that those who really decide the elections want you to.) Voting, as pathetic as it has become in our “democracy” (oligarchy), is still, I think, a yogic practice.
One way that Krishna defines Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita is to act without any thought of reward and without any attachment to the outcome. In many areas of Life we can resist acting without attachment to the outcome, i.e. we act with HUGE attachment to the outcome, but in an election, unless you are a Tea Party-er who is going to join the armed uprising if Hillary wins or are one of the “patriots” that Trump is giving the thumbs-up to assassinate her, we cast our vote and in our Constitutional society, we agree to live with the outcome. It’s likely that one outcome will mean more work than another outcome, but we don’t know WHICH will require more work yet. Still as aspiring yogis, we work in the moment and then surrender the fruits/results to Something Greater; otherwise, we’re not in the moment and just practicing tension.
(Just a thought: If two sides are saying that the other side is “Evil Incarnate,” at least two of those sides are wrong, and though each side clings to the belief that it’s the OTHER side that’s wrong, we don’t actually KNOW which side is wrong. And here we have a third side is saying that BOTH sides are “Evil Incarnate!” Yogically speaking, and having watched my mind enough, I’m confident it’s ALL sides are wrong, in some way or ways. Though Hollywood and society continually tell us that people are either all evil or all good, it’s simply not true.)
Having said all that, I acknowledge that I am a white man, as you have noticed, and under Trump, I recognize I won’t have it quite as bad as women, blacks, hispanics, Muslims, etc., but I am also a yoga teacher and there are those, we know, who see yoga as a form of Devil worship (I have met some), and these are some of the people that Trump has empowered in his candidacy. I am also on the lower-end of income level, a choice that all but the “rock star” yogis make in being a full-time yoga teacher committed to my personal practice; this is an economic status that will come under even greater attack if Trump is President and has a Republican majority in Congress, notwithstanding any of his claims to the contrary. A while back, trying to see the positive, it occurred to me that service to the poor is so valued by Christ and Christianity, so I imagine that the Republican brand of “Christianity” sees it as their duty to make as many poor people as possible so that people can serve them. I say all this because “if I don’t speak up now for those who will suffer under Trump rule, who will speak up when they come to take me away?” to paraphrase a famous quote from pre-WWII and Nazism. (And I hope all this doesn’t sound too contradictory from what I wrote previously on the Lesser of Two Evils. We all have to make the best choice we can, hopefully coming from a place of Love and not fear.)
(5th paragraph) Voting in an election is just one of the duties we have as citizens of this country. More importantly, and I think infinitely more satisfying and meaningful though, is voting EVERY DAY and even EVERY MOMENT and even EVERY BREATH! In an election, as we’ve seen this cycle, we are fed plenty of lies, part-truths, exaggerated claims, and occasional truth, but remember, WE created this. Since we have a society committed to avoiding self-awareness and introspection and driven by greed and violence, how could it be otherwise? In fact, those lies, part-truths, etc. are simply the state of the human mind, if your’s is anything like mine. I figure it’s a human condition, which really only becomes problematic when NOT recognized for what is and all thoughts being taken as true! (Yikes!)
Whatever way you choose to vote, don’t think of it as an end in itself, since it’s not. Many of you are active in the election and I thank you for your service, but don’t stop being politically active on Nov. 8, even if your candidate of choice wins. And definitely don’t JUST vote in the election, but vote with every dollar you spend to support what you WANT to support. Vote in every breath that you take that is on-purpose relaxed and in your belly, not just fight-or-flight chest breathing, that I’ve been reading about in classes this week. Vote in every action you take that is made from Love and not from fear (=chest breathing again). Vote in choosing to be of service and to give MORE than you take. Vote every moment you choose to be present and not surrender to distraction or consumption. Vote in how and where you CHOOSE to give your mental and emotional time and energy; THAT, in theory, is TOTALLY under your control. Sometimes I’ll remind myself, “Ti, you could think that thought (or do that action) for a million years and still not be different/not be the person you are aiming at being,” and that thought helps me to drop it and move forward or to replace the thought or action with a more life-affirming and life-enhancing one.
As I’ve been saying in class this week as I’ve been reading about the numerous negative impacts of chest breathing, which is the breathing of fight-or-flight, “if someone tries to sell you on chest breathing, JUST SAY NO!” It’s kind of a joke, but really it’s not. There are plenty of people out there (and maybe even inside you!) trying to convince you to start/resume/continue chest breathing. Anytime anyone (including you) tells you to be afraid for any reason, or tells you that you are less than you should be, that you are not good enough in whatever way, that you are bad or a sinner, or that you need to do as THEY are saying “or else,” that person is trying to convince you to surrender YOUR Peace, your calm belly breath, to them in favor of unsatisfying and harmful chest breathing and the associated mental/emotional agitation. DON’T DO IT! Calmly smile (if you can), remember Love and your connection with Source and get the breath back in your belly. That’s a vote for Life and will certainly have a positive impact in your world and in society, which is made up of individuals.
Recently I put a quote on the mirror in the restroom at Loving Kindness, from Steve Cope’s The Great Work of Your Life, “If we organize our Life’s energies around anything less sublime than our True Nature, we will continue to be split, cut off from Source.” (something like that) So really the most important vote we can make is in how “we organize our Life’s energies.” What I wrote above is movement in that direction, but if we don’t KNOW what our purpose is in Life, both the BIGGER purpose as well as our individual purpose, we still be cut off from Source. Hence we need some serious introspection and self-reflection, and having a daily commitment to it is key; it could take the form of yoga practice or meditation or some other form. Just thinking about it from time to time won’t suffice. Just thinking or telling ourselves that we are doing it won’t suffice. It takes work, conscious, sometimes hard and sometimes painful work, to get clear and open and in the Flow of Love, to go beyond our self-imposed (and societally encouraged) limitations, to connect again and again with Source until the connection is permanent, or at least to consciously move in that direction.
Life is full of “distractions” away from that Goal, even our own thoughts usually function in that way. As I said in class this evening, “As far as I can tell, if we see ourselves as separate from the Infinite in any way, it takes tension. If we feel ourselves as anything smaller than Infinite, it takes tension, and the smaller we feel ourselves, the more tension it takes.” So instead of realizing we are plugged into the Infinite Source of Energy and Consciousness, we use the energy available to us to cut ourselves off from Source in myriad ways. To transform ourselves and our world toward Love, we can choose to “vote” with how we spend our time and how we prioritize our time and life. I recently told a student, “I never think of my spiritual practices as ‘self-care,’ though from one perspective they are. I really think of them as my job.” It’s really how I have chosen to “organize my Life’s energies” and that is in the direction of Source. I make that “vote” every day and every moment. Please join me in it, if you haven’t already.
As Bhagavan Das, one of my teachers sings, “If I don’t pray all of time, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.” We choose (“vote”) each and every moment.