Sitting in Solidarity at the Wisconsin Capitol. ~ Andrea Russell

Via elephant journal
on Feb 27, 2011
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The original protest photo featured on Gawker and Huffington Post, featuring Andrea Russell and Alicia Wright

The yoga studio or mediation hall is not the most appropriate place for political debate. However, these practices have great tools to offer and can serve as a message of peace as we navigate political upheaval. Yoga and meditation can teach us to stay grounded when the ground feels groundless. The practice can teach us to keep our hearts open in the face of diversity and adversity. The practice can help us to widen our circle of compassion beyond those in our immediate circle and fuel a passion to stand up for the rights of all beings.

Up to 100,000 people have gathered at the Wisconsin state capitol, rallying each day against a bill that threatens to strip union collective bargaining, restrict voting, take away vital state aid and health benefits, and sell off power plants on no-bid offers. If you read the bill you discover it is filled with hidden agendas. Meanwhile, the Governor has said he will not negotiate and the democratic senators have fled the state in order to slow it all down.

Inside the capitol, an around the clock sleep-in protest is being held with speakers from both within our community and across the country, including Tammy Baldwin, Jesse Jackson, Amy Goodman, and Tom Morello. We’ve been in the press around the globe. Thirteen days into the peaceful protests, there has been no violence. The police officers and state troopers are often seen protesting when they are not on the clock. As you enter the capitol, you hear and feel the sound of the conch shell being blown, the drum circle raging, and thousands of people chanting.

There are infinite ways to stand up for what you believe in and to rally for peace.  If you spend the night or arrive early you will find people practicing yoga.  On Saturday, a few of us gathered to meditate for an hour and then practiced sun salutations for another hour on the first floor of the rotunda; it was incredible to feel the positive energy of the space and the intentions in our hearts infuse the protests and our practice.

Alicia Wright had the brilliant idea of organizing ‘hands around the capitol.’ On Monday, with our signs in hand, we ran and chanted around the outer sidewalk of the capitol, encouraging hundreds of people to hold hands and create a giant circle of solidarity around the building. Within minutes, the entire circumference of the capitol was encircled with chanting, smiling, radiant people.

If you wind up the marble stairs to the third floor west balcony, you will come upon those sitting in solidarity, meditating to increase peace and compassion. We sit every night from 7:30-9:30 pm; people come and go, and each day several more sit. Many who haven’t sat before, but are curious, join in too.

If you can sit and breathe, you can meditate. The energy is high and the drums are loud–there is not a moment of quiet, yet the deep stillness that can be experienced as your bones vibrate from the sounds of drums and chanting moving through you is profound.

The beauty of hearing thousands of people singing the national anthem or chanting, “What does democracy look like? This is what democracy looks like!” brings forth a deep well of joy and hope. To see how our community and communities across the nation have come together in peace to stand up against this bill makes me proud to be a Wisconsinite and part of the global community protesting peacefully for change.

Andrea Russell was born and raised in Wisconsin. She teaches group yoga and meditation classes, therapeutic lessons, and a variety of workshops.  She is on facility for Alignment Yoga’s 200 and 500-hour teacher training programs in Madison, Wisconsin.  In addition to yoga, Andrea is a nationally and state certified massage therapist and body worker specializing in Neurovascular and Craniosacral Therapy.

Off the mat, she blogs, enjoys cooking healthy organic food, being in nature close to the earth, and visiting the sacred sites of the world. You can find her on Facebook and her website.


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8 Responses to “Sitting in Solidarity at the Wisconsin Capitol. ~ Andrea Russell”

  1. SriDTMc says:

    Awesome! So happy to see the tools of higher consciousness being used to turn the gears of positive change. People all around the world sit with you in solidarity!

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Hi Andrea thanks for sharing 🙂 a yoga student and Landmark graduate Heidi from WI 🙂

  3. TamingAuthor says:

    Sad. Very sad. Andrea, what does democracy look like? Does it look like union thugs hijacking the government? Does it look like Democratic politicians running away from the debate, hiding out, costing the taxpayers money through their pre-school tactics? Do you really think that is what democracy looks like?

    Does democracy mean being drawn by your emotions to follow slogans dangled by puppet masters? What kind of positive change is involved in union thugs looting the public treasury? Do you agree with the goals and tactics of SEIU bosses? With AFL-CIO bosses? Is your yoga studio unionized? Why not? Are you now organizing the other yoga teachers into a union?

    Do you agree you should not be able to remove incompetent teachers? Do you have kids in school? Have you had to fight with unionized teachers when they refuse to teach your kids? Have you experienced the heart break of having your kid consigned to an incompetent, even abusive, teacher? How many sleepless nights have you spent after your kid comes home crying?

    Do you agree teacher's union officials should make upwards of $450,000 a year to foil attempts to improve education? Is that what democracy looks like? Do you agree with the efforts of highly paid union bosses to choke off school choice?

    Have you bothered to watch Waiting for Superman? How would you speak, personally, to the kids who want an education but are left out, knowing they face a dead end because they did not win the lottery to go to a good school?

    How do you feel about teachers who have been found to be abusive or incompetent sitting in an empty room for seven years with full pay and increasing their pensions at taxpayer expense, all because of union protection? Is that democracy? What about the taxpayers? Parents? Do they have a say? Where is the choice?

    There is no ethics or higher awareness in a system in which union bosses take money from workers on a compulsory basis and then buy off the very politicians who negotiate their contract. That is corruption. That is not democracy or change. That is pure out and out conflict of interest. Do you support such conflicts of interest?

    Why are the public sector union employees paying less for their pensions and health care than private workers? Is it okay that they get a special deal because their union dues pay for special favors? Is that what democracy looks like?

    The voters of Wisconsin voted for a new government that would address budget shortfalls. That was democracy. Do you think protests organized by out of state union bosses and political activists are fair to the democratic process in Wisconsin? When voters expressed their will is it okay to attempt to defeat that will through protest? Is that what democracy looks like? Should taxpayers simply strike and protest and refuse to pay to operate the government? Is that what democracy looks like in your plan?

    Are you comfortable sitting in the midst of paid protesters and paid organizers on the dole of George Soros, a billionaire speculator determined to crash the U.S. dollar? Are you at all uncomfortable knowing you may be doing the bidding of an unscrupulous currency speculator manipulating the political scene? Is unethical, unscrupulous speculator Soros your idea of what democracy looks like?

    Andrea, it pains me greatly to see you used in this manner. I doubt you even know who is orchestrating this sham protest. I doubt you know the scale of manipulation taking place to defeat democracy. I forecast there will be a time when you look back at your actions with shame and the anger of knowing unscrupulous folks preyed on your naivete. May peace be with you in those dark moments.

  4. […] questing, I do a lot of meditating. I use a cycle of activity. I intersperse meditation with activity. I would either do asana, walk, […]

  5. TamingAuthor says:

    Here's how it worked out in the Soviet Union by someone who was there…

  6. Bartleby says:

    Oh, be nice.