I couldn’t leave this unacknowledged.
We’re in the midst of troubling times and I reckon many of you are feeling a little off balance. Are you? What are you feeling? I’m feeling agitated and mad and confused and excited and hopeful because change is inevitable.
As a long-time political advocate I’ve discovered there are many different ways to engage from marching in a rally to practicing yoga or other forms of self-care. Yep, yoga is a radical act of rebellion against the prevailing groupthink of our society that is telling us to go go go. Yoga tells us to slow down and feel what we’re feeling.
Yoga invites us to notice what’s happening.
I also see yoga as political action, in that it offers us ways to interact with power. Our yoga practice teaches us patience and resiliency. It teaches us that we are enough just as we are right now. It teaches us to bring space into compression and compression into space. Yang and yin. The yamas and niyamas.
Do you agree? How do you engage politically?
So I mentioned the yamas and niyamas. Are you familiar with them? Or is this the first time you’re encountering these words? They are core teachings in Patanjali’s yogic philosophy and they are essentially a guide of things to do and to not do. They are those things we learned in kindergarten – don’t hit others, keep your nose clean, pass the cookies, have a nap, play fair. That kind of stuff.
I have found the five yamas (things to do) helpful in keeping me balanced when engaging politically. Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.
Maintain a dignified credibility
I see this as the first yama of Ahimsa or nonviolence. It is important to defy injustice and it can be done without the use of violence. Don’t hit others. Be passionate, for sure, and remember to bring your intelligence along. Have evidence to demonstrate the effects of the change you want to see. How will change affect people’s lives? I look to Dorothy Day as an inspiration for effective nonviolent resistance. Trust your compassion.
This is the second yama of Satya or truthfulness. Do not be deceptive. Keep your nose clean. As Michelle Obama said, “when they go low we go high.” When you advocate honestly your voice will resonate with others. Trust your truth.
People are the experts of their own lives
This is the third yama of Asteya or non-stealing. People and communities who are affected by the issues you’re engaged with know what needs to happen and they have the necessary expertise. Pass the cookies. Do not swoop in to fix it all. You can’t. You will find yourself alienated and burned out. Trust their truth.
Stay focused on the issue
This is the fourth yama of Brahmacharya or non-excess or right use of energy. Sometimes a political movement can be quite captivating. Rallies, marches, intense discussions, creative protest signs. I get it. I’ve surfed that wave many times. It’s certainly invigorating and yet, I always end up overcome by the tide of energy and crash. Whew, have a nap. Sure it’s part of the cyclical nature of life – birth, growth, maturity, decline, death, repeat – however we can also approach our endeavors with a measure of moderation. Trust your boundaries.
Work in collaboration
This is the fifth yama of Aparigraha or non-possessiveness. Working with your community partners will make your message stronger because being a lone voice in the wild can often get lost or be dismissed. This is not your struggle; it is our struggle. Loosen your grip and allow others to participate too. Play fair. Show your solidarity with the causes that matter to you and allow others to stand in solidarity with you as well because policy makers listen to a united front. Trust your allies.
I’d enjoy hearing about the issues you’re passionate about. Tell me about your acts of resistance. We’re stronger (and far more interesting) together. Peace friends.