Growing up, I was proudly non-political. I didn’t enjoy the arguments at holiday dinners, the right and left divide between issues, or the “white” or “black” view on policies. I was always seeing gray—or so I thought.
As a teenager and young adult struggling to figure out who I was and what I stood for, how could I feel like I knew what was best for the nation? I didn’t feel relevant. In my opinion, my voice didn’t matter—I was one person out of 318.9 million. It was okay for me to stay silent.
But, I still cared.
Ironically, I earned a master’s degree in Social Work where we studied social justice and were required to look into the history of the nation’s politics. We looked into disability, benefits, women’s rights, gay rights and aging. There were multiple discussions on current events and past historical decisions. Here, I researched topics, wrote papers and participated in discussions.
At this time, I realized just how passionate I was about issues affecting America’s citizens—myself included.
Still, I remained silent.
I remember thinking, “What difference will I make? It doesn’t matter what I say, think or do—I’m of no relevance in the larger picture.”
My message to myself: You don’t matter.
And then, there was yoga.
You see, for many, yoga begins as a way of stretching and moving our physical bodies, and becoming more aware of, and working towards, proper body alignment. For me, yoga did all of that, and as I continued to practice regularly, yoga stretched my perception of myself. It allowed me to connect with a higher truth, and has assisted my journey into the alignment of who I am in the universe.
All of this matters, because at its core, yoga is union.
Prior to digging into the philosophy of yoga, I was existing separate from myself. My ego declared who I was in the world—it defined my strengths and limitations. What I thought (or didn’t think) ruled my existence; I wasn’t connected to a higher purpose, or to my place as a citizen of the United States.
We may have the luxury of living in a “free” country, but I grew up chained to my beliefs about who I was in the world and who I could be—even though I, admittedly, grew up with every opportunity. Yet, regardless of our privilege or of our freedom, we each cling on to the language, stories and events of our lives from the beginning.
But yoga offered me a clean slate.
The practice of integration enabled me to feel whole within my being, so I could radiate this confidence in my life off the mat. I began to connect to a place of intuition on a gut level that informed me of what I truly believed in.
And then, I found my voice. First as a student, then as a teacher, and now always fluctuating between the two in every experience.
Now, I can no longer remain silent. I want to stand up for what is right and wrong and good and bad. I want my vote to be cast.
Because it is important. Because you are important. Because we are important.
When I look at the current political landscape of our country, I worry.
How many of us are living in fear because of our immigrant status or the color of our skin?
How many of us struggle to feel worthy because our bank account is not on the same level as those who seemingly have power?
Who among us are clinging to a role model who only makes us feel good about ourselves as we are, without challenging us to go deeper? Without having to reconcile things within ourselves that might be outdated, or to open ourselves up to ideas that may be uncomfortable?
And, then I think about yoga.
We say that the mat is a mirror of what we are facing in our lives, and it’s true.
There are many times when I feel judged in class because I am judging myself. When I feel like I’m “not good enough,” it’s because that’s how I am treating myself in the world. Or on those days when I feel integrated and connected on my mat, it’s because I’m living with awareness and life is moving freely.
My practice affects my lens of the world, and of politics. Yes, it has made me take responsibility for my voice in the universe—voting and standing up for what I believe in, while providing inspiration for what our future could look like.
I look forward to the day when the majority of Congressman share Tim Ryan’s philosophies on improving our nation, when our foreign and national policies match the ideas of Seane Corn’s “Off the Mat and Into the World” program, and when our political debates embody the messages of a Wanderlust Speakeasy—when as a collective human race, we bridge the gap between politics, activism and spirituality.
You see, the philosophy of yoga allows us to accept that all that is occurring is what is meant to be. What is occurring in our political landscape is happening so that we can create a change to benefit our country and lead our nation into the future.
Find your voice, invite mindfulness into your political conversations, and consider what kind of country you want to be a part of—then let’s talk and do something about it.
It is through conscious connection and deep understanding of our underlying similarity that we will unite our government, our politics and our parties. The time is now to take our mindfulness practices and carry them into our political responsibilities.
Change does not happen unless the people ask for it, and we cannot remain silent as a community any longer. We must invite our yoga into our politics.
Author: Suzi Rice
Apprentice Editor: Brianna Miller; Editor: Travis May