August 25, 2016

The Political Revolution We Really Need: Empathy by Listening.


One thing I have learned as a yoga teacher is that real authenticity starts when we are able to admit that we do not have all the answers.

We are just human beings who are having an experience together. I might know more about the anatomy behind the yoga practice and the possible effects of our actions, but my students will always know more than me about what they feel during the practice.

I enjoy talking to my students after class and hearing about their experience; this helps me evolve my teachings by honoring their insights on the effects of my yoga class. It gives me the chance to get an idea of what people feel like and I need their feedback to be a teacher who is of benefit for my students in future classes.

Taking this off the mat it will be even more beneficial. Just recently there was a discussion about the “Black Lives Matter“ movement and if it should be called “All Lives Matter“ instead. Well, I don‘t know how a black person feels hearing about black people being victims of gun violence.

I can talk with friends about it, but from my point of perspective I will never be able to fully understand all the feelings that are brought up around this subject. Who am I to question the “Black Lives Matter“ movement from my limited perspective?

The same goes for the ongoing discussion about abortion. Donald Trump seems like he is changing his point of view on this subject from time to time. If it was because he gains new insights on the topic by talking to women all across the country, that would be a good thing. Unfortunately right now it more looks like he is playing with interest groups in order to get their support.

Let’s take a look at how Trump uses his words and avoiding a real debate at all costs:

After selecting Mike Pence as his running mate, he took the pro-life position, where he had been more liberal on the subject during the first debates earlier this year. One could think that it is not about the topic itself anymore, but more about strategic decisions on how to win the election. 

From my perspective, as a male yoga teacher from Germany, this all seems very strange. I see a bunch of old white men discussing women‘s bodies and rights. How do they know what it feels like to be pregnant as a teenager? What do they know about the challenges young mothers are facing? Who are they to decide? 

What I am missing in this debate is women getting the platform to speak about the pros and cons in this subject. We need to learn to listen to others and consider their point of view, even if it is not our own.

During my yoga teacher training we have been doing a lot of “co-listening“ exercises. The idea is listening carefully to the ideas of someone else and then using our own words to describe what we have heard them say.

If we apply this technique to our discussions around controversial topics, we have much higher chances of finding some kind of agreement in the end. Even if not, we are still respecting others’ opinions, which should be the basis of any democratic society.

Seeing the political debate more as an exchange of thoughts and perspectives instead of a competition would give us the chance to focus on the content of the debate.

Politics should benefit the masses, representing their opinions and finding solutions for their problems. Politics are not meant to be a form of entertainment that is based on finding the person with the most controversial punch-lines.

Apparently this election is going to be more about scandals, insulting others, disrespecting others’ opinions and seeking media attention.


Let‘s take these thoughts back into our own lives. Often we find ourselves arguing with someone and maybe even getting upset with them for not getting our point. It could be more helpful to ask ourselves: “Do I get their point?“

Our opinions will always be based on our own experience. Admitting that we don‘t know how someone else feels is the first step to being open to others’ opinions. Assuming how they feel based on our perspective, just doesn‘t work.

Instead of creating interest groups that gather around certain ideas and avoid people with different opinions, we should try to create a culture that is based on exchanging thoughts and ideas for the betterment of all. It should be more about the content and less about the way it is presented.

Listening and hearing what others have to say is the key for to creating a mindful society.

Let‘s try to have that in mind the next time we disagree with someone and take it as a challenge to understand their point of view. Take a deep breath and listen to the words of others. Or as the Dalai Lama says:

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But when you listen you might learn something new.“


This is Louis CK talking about emotions in politics and why they go wild in this election:




Author: Robert Busch

Images: Flickr/Sean MacEntee, Elephant Instagram

Editor: Travis May

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