On September 6, 2012, United States President Barack Obama delivered a speech at the Democratic National Committee sealing his candidacy for a second term as the Democratic Nominee. As I watched the screen, listened to his words and wiped the tears from my face in deep appreciation, the yogic code of ethics, the Yamas & Niyamas, came alive. Thank you Mr. President!
Over the years of teaching, training and traveling, I have had many students ask me how the Yamas and Niyamas really apply in everyday life. Many have seen them akin to scripture from various world religions, others believe they are a set of principles by which some choose to live and still others believe they are a nice idea but highly unattainable in a modern age full of war, economic difficulty, skepticism and political maneuvering.
Last night, the answer became simple- the Yamas and Niyamas are alive, well, and a much needed map for our journey toward balance and happiness. President Obama called us to that yogic path of action last night. He reminded us about the deepest part of ourselves, our responsibility to one another- in community- TOGETHER.
To reference some of those statements review Barack Obama 2012 DNC speech: 15 best lines on Politico.com. These points of pause are real and are about building community, taking risks and living a life that involves the self in relationship to others. They are about YOU, ME and US. How we live, what we believe and what we stand for.
The Yamas are about our self in relationship to the other. How we speak to one another, how we act toward one another, and what we think in our external world with and for others. President Obama brought cheers to the DNC as he subtly referenced the principles of:
Whether it was about the ending of war and support for our troops (Ahimsa), the need for honesty and transparency in our real estate and financial industries (Satya and Asteya), paying a responsible amount of taxes vis a vi one’s income (Brahmacharya), or the importance of an equitable healthcare system that is not just for the top 1% of the country’s population but for everyone (Aparigraha), President Obama connected modern challenges and issues with the essential need to work together in order to create a better tomorrow- the yogic path in action.
His connection with this ancient code of yogic principles continued as the 2012 DNC crowd laughed, cheered, and supported one another as a community of citizens in a war similar to that of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. His references to the Niyamas-
Ishvara Pranidhana (Surrender)
-drew us back to how OUR actions are critical in times like these.
The Niyamas, the relationship we have with ourselves, personally, is about what actions WE take to cultivate the self so we may positively interact in the external world. President Obama discussed in his speech the need to take self- responsibility as we are part of a larger whole and that the actions of the self have a direct impact on all of us no matter how you look at it; no matter which side of the aisle you sit on.
His discussion on the importance of a healthcare system that takes care of everyone (Saucha), the need for each of us to have careers that induce a sense of pride and cultivate dignity (Santosha), to work hard in education without the burden of unbearable student loans so we can provide a better life for ourselves and families (Tapas and Svadhyaya) and to ultimately surrender to the idea that we do have a responsibility to ourselves and others as a collective consciousness to do something now (Ishvara Pranidhana)- the essence of citizenship.
The Democratic Party as represented by President Obama’s words take a yogic approach to rebuilding a nation that has been discouraged and bombarded by negative energy, mudslinging, blame and hatred for self and other; for many reasons but also for no reason. As yogis, we need to pay attention- we need to live our yoga not just on the mat but also IN THE WORLD in a very real way. We need to take action now and come back to community, come back to shared responsibility for the success of all and most importantly to come back to love. Yes, the road is long and tedious but like with most things, the rewards at the end of that road are great if we approach the journey with steadfastness, compassion, and most of all, if we approach it TOGETHER!