Oct. 25-26, 2020
What follows is adapted and updated from my blog at this time four years ago. Not much has changed, apparently!
(If you’ve had enough of the election AND have already voted, feel free to skip to the THIRD PARAGRAPH, noted below. If you HAVEN’T voted yet and are not sure if you are going to, read it all, and then vote!)
NC early voting has begun and you can vote now through this Saturday, Halloween, October 31, 2020, or on Tuesday, November 3, 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. (I know all the arguments for “not” voting, though the voices advocating that are much quieter than four years ago! 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. Enough people four years ago took the “not voting” option so that only about a fourth of the voting population was able put Trump in office!) Voting, as pathetic as it has become in our “two-party” “democracy” (oligarchy) with its systemic racism, is still, I think, maybe even by definition, 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 most areas of Life we do the opposite of that and instead act with HUGE attachment to the outcome—and generally suffer as a result—but in an election, we cast our vote and in our Constitutional society, we agree to live with the outcome, with a few vocal and notable current exceptions. As aspiring yogis, whether on the mat or off, 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. For those of us endeavoring to be conscious, we simply attempt to make the best choice we can, hopefully coming from a place of Love and not fear and making the choice most true to our heart. We also need to be clear as we vote that NO political outcome could ever give us the permanent happiness that every human being desires…so don’t expect it!
(THIRD PARAGRAPH) Voting in an election is just one of the duties and gifts we have as citizens of this country. More importantly though, and I think also infinitely more satisfying and meaningful (and subversive and effective), is voting EVERY DAY and even EVERY MOMENT and even EVERY BREATH! In an election, as we’ve seen this cycle as well as the last, we are fed plenty of lies, part-truths, exaggerated claims, and occasional truth, but remember, WE created this. Since we are part of 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 then being taken unquestioningly as true! (Yikes!) This part of the human condition is, of course, exacerbated by social media—powerful technology without morals—committed, as are most of the politicians, to using its/their power while avoiding responsibility at all costs.
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. 4, even if your candidate(s) of choice win(s). 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 you take: have the breath be on-purpose, relaxed, in the belly. You can choose that right now! Don’t give in to fight-or-flight chest breathing with its inevitable and negative physical, mental and emotional consequences. 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, on every level you can. Vote each moment by choosing to be present for as much of your life as you can, instead of surrendering 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 read from books and articles in classes over the years, there are numerous scientifically documented, negative impacts of upper-chest breathing, which is the breathing of fight-or-flight, so 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, that you should worry about something/anything, 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 and negative physical repercussions. DON’T DO IT! Calmly smile (if you can), remember Love and your constant 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. Certainly we need some individuals who are committed to remaining calm and clear-headed and are not just cultivating fear, agitation, and tension.
Some of you will remember the 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, is practice toward that, but if we don’t KNOW what our purpose is in Life, both the BIGGER purpose as well as our individual purpose, we remain cut off from Source. Hence we need some serious and ongoing introspection and self-reflection, and having a daily commitment to that 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, or even societally dictated) limitations, to connect again and again with Source until the connection is permanent, or at least to consciously move in that direction.
Certainly, life is full of “distractions” away from that Goal, and the election certainly seems to serve that purpose for many, but even our own thoughts usually function in that way. As far as I can tell, it’s “built into our system,” and if we see/feel ourselves as separate from the Infinite in any way, we are first, and unconsciously, experiencing unnecessary tension which has resulted in that mistaken perception of separation. (Simplifying that, we could say, “If we have an ego—a sense of being a separate self—we are tense.” or “Ego lives on tension.”) If we feel ourselves as anything smaller than Infinite, inner tension is causing that sense of smallness, and the smaller we feel ourselves, the more tension it takes. In those cases, instead of realizing that 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.
But that inner tension, even anxiety, that everyone who has an ego feels, is NOT the end, so we must not take it as a stopping point. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in Being Peace, “Life is filled with suffering, but …suffering is not enough. We must also be in touch with the wonders of life.” To transform ourselves and our world toward Love, we can, we must, and we always do anyway, choose, either consciously or unconsciously, to “vote” with how we spend our time, our awareness, our energy. We “vote” every moment by what we choose to value. What are you choosing to value now?