The 2016 presidential election is upon us. Some call it the most controversial election in history.
Many Americans feel painfully divided from their families, friends and neighbors. Others feel deeply conflicted within their own hearts and minds. Some dedicated yoga practitioners are so disheartened by the choices of presidential candidates that they plan not to go to the poll booths at all this year.
This raised the question for me, what does it mean to be a yogi in this election?
What does yoga teach that can support us in how (or if) we vote this month? Below are three yogic principles we might consider when contemplating these questions.
1. Yogis Are Committed to Seeing Clearly.
Yoga master Pandit Rajmani Tigunait says, “a confused mind is not fit to follow any path.”
So, what is clear? There is corruption in the political arena. People are dissatisfied with the status quo. The nation is divided on what change should look like and who should implement that change. A revolution has started among progressive thinkers, and that thinking is not yet the majority view.
Einstein said that, “we think the opposite of love is hate, but the opposite of love is fear.” One might conclude that extremists on all sides of the political fight are operating out of fear. Some fear things changing, others fear things staying the same.
History shows that the evolution of consciousness takes time. Clearly, we are moving forward politically. We’ve come a long way from the days of slavery, to segregation, to now having a black president. From the days when a woman didn’t even have the right to vote, to now a woman receiving the presidential nomination from a major political party. The evolution of mass consciousness has no end, but it does have a timeline. If we evaluate where the “collective” is at this time, we can take strategic steps to continue moving forward. Trusting that we are indeed moving forward, even if it is not happening at the pace we wish it was or exactly in the way we’d like to see it happen today.
2. Yogis Practice Non-Attachment.
The Bhagavad Gita guides us to perform skillful actions without attachment to outcomes. Many yogis were disappointed that Bernie Sanders didn’t win the Democratic nomination. Maybe it was because the system failed. Maybe because progressives like him don’t yet hold enough seats in local or federal government. Maybe because the collective consciousness simply is not ready for such a progressive leap.
Bernie knew that the majority is not quite ready for a third party presidential candidate, which is why he ran as a Democrat. Revolutionary thinkers made huge strides in 2016 in this still bipartisan political paradigm. Many voted for Bernie in the primaries, and for whatever reason he lost.
It’s okay to have feelings about that.
But it’s not useful to grasp onto what we want so firmly that we turn a blind eye to the collective consciousness and what the “whole” is ready for. Bernie has adamantly urged his supporters to accept what “is,” and to push forward in the ways we actually can now, which includes turning out the vote for candidates at all levels of government.
3. Yogis Don’t Believe in Evil.
It’s believed that the general public has little understanding of the pressures or challenges of holding a high level political office. We are often quick to condemn a politician for something they’ve done without being privy to the full circumstances or alternatives they were faced with. Also, all humans make mistakes—and the bigger the responsibility, the bigger the consequences. The more someone is in the public eye, the more criticism they take for any missteps (and the more those errors are blown out of proportion for the sake of flashy news headlines).
The Yoga Sutra explains that actions perceived as being evil are actually just actions rooted in klesha.
The kleshas are the sources of suffering and include painful unconscious beliefs. There are five kleshas: the illusion of separateness, ignorance, attachment, aversion and fear.
In yogic view, the kleshas drive unskillful thoughts and deeds, and all human beings have them, (though some people are more driven by them than others). Yogis know that politicians have kleshas, but we don’t vote for a candidate out of a belief that one is the “lesser of two evils.” Instead, we might ask ourselves:
>> In this highly polarized political landscape, which candidates have the most likelihood of being elected?
>> Which of these two human beings (or political platforms) align most with my values as a yogi?
>> Which shows the most concern about our children, the underserved, underprivileged and the planet?
>> Which candidate’s character, public service track record and platform are simply more based in the principle of love than the other’s?
As a yogi, I’m committed to contributing to the continued evolution of consciousness. Therefore, I see it as my duty to vote both at the federal and local levels of government.
I won’t vote out of fear, nor succumb to professions of evil. I will vote from the understanding that both evolution and revolution take time. I’ll cast a ballot in accordance with what is considered the most skillful action possible in the present moment.
I hope you’ll join me at the polls!
Author: Karina Ayn Mirsky
Image: Courtesy of Author
Editor: Catherine Monkman