- Alicia Waters
An American Yogi: Notes on an Election Part II
Here's where we go back a couple weeks to my initial post about the election. Remember my friend who remarked that the fact that I don't appear to know any Trump supporters personally is part of the problem? Let's unpack that, because I've been reflecting on it, and there's a lot to see there.
For one thing, she's absolutely right. If I surround myself with people, groups, and even news sources that already agree with me, I create a very sheltered bubble. It might feel good to get constant validation of my beliefs, but I'll end up with serious blind spots because I'm ignoring the people whose experience contradicts mine.
How arrogant and egotistical (and un-yogic) is it to think my experience is the only one that matters? Or the one that matters the most?
Am I not then doing exactly the same thing that was bothering me so much on November 9? In my last post, I shared the personal hurt that I felt after the election when it seemed to me that half of America was giving the okay to sexist, racist, bigoted and abusive behavior. Was that interpretation correct? I don't know. I can't possibly know the inner thoughts and motivations of over 61 million people.
What I do know is that the feelings I had in response were real, and I desperately wanted to be acknowledged and heard.
It would be so easy to make assumptions about "those people". It would be so easy to lump them into a giant group and say "they're ignorant and they don't care about people like me." Not because it's necessarily true, but because that's how it felt at the time.
It is my strong conviction that all humans (myself included!) have value and deserve respect. I did not want to be told that my beliefs were silly or unimportant. I did not want to feel like I did not matter. That's not ego; that's the Divine inner nature refusing to be denied.
The one who loves all intensely begins perceiving in all living beings a part of himself.
. - from the Yajur Veda
That inner nature resides within every being - even those who fervently support Trump. So I can assume they want the same recognition and respect that I do. And anytime I generalize about them to demean them or make them "wrong" or "bad", I am contributing to the divide between us out of ignorance.
Conclusion 1: We must stay connected. We have to remember that there are humans on both sides of any argument.
Listening is a good start. There's a lot of research that says the only thing that changes deeply held bias is personal contact or experience that contradicts that bias. Logic and all the best debate tactics won't do it.
But I have to confess that part of me goes "Wait, there is so much injustice, so much violence, so much of the ugliness that makes my heart ache and it's happening RIGHT NOW...are you telling me that I have to wait for hundreds of millions of people to listen to each other and have their pain acknowledged before I can expect it to change??!!"
The answer is no. I do not have to wait. Neither do you.
Right now, we can work harder and more strategically than we ever have before to promote the values we believe in, while still being humane and nonviolent to those who don't agree with us.
Indeed we must.
The other thing that happens when too much of your circle agrees with you (at least outwardly) is that it starts to feel like the march towards your preferred version of the future is already underway, that the outcome is inevitable, and you barely even have to leave the couch. How convenient!
Sometimes it takes a big slap-in-the-face shock to get you to notice what's been happening while you've been sitting on the couch...
One wake-up call I've had from this particular shock has been the fact that there are individuals and groups who have been working tirelessly to promote an agenda of fear, hatred, and division. People have used their creativity and resources to make fake news websites with thousands of articles promoting every hateful thing from homophobia to misogyny to white supremacy. People have committed their dollars and time to politicians and businesses who seem hell-bent on destroying the environment and any progress we've made for human rights. People have risked their own safety and reputation to commit hate crimes.
I can look at these developments and feel despair, or I can resolve to meet them with equal force in service of love, compassion, and unity.
Conclusion 2: We must act. No longer can we delude ourselves into thinking that someone else will do it for us.
What does that look like in real life? It could go many ways, and it will look different for each person. One good way to decide on an action is to find an issue that particularly concerns you and lend as much support as you can. Focusing on one area can prevent you from getting overwhelmed by how much there is to do. Another way to get involved is to research what's already going on in your community. Find a group that's doing great work and ask how you can help.
And of course, random acts of kindness and solidarity are always welcome. Like this guy:
He stood outside of a mosque in Texas with this sign because he imagined how the people who gather there must be feeling in these times.
This is love in action.
I've seen stories lately about ex-Marines becoming escorts for Planned Parenthood; reading groups forming to learn and discuss contemporary topics like race relations; citizens getting involved in local politics who never thought of doing so before; individuals standing up to bullies on the train, in their workplace, even in their family.
Educate yourself. Have an uncomfortable conversation. March. Volunteer. Donate. The opportunities are endless.
What is beyond doubt is that we must challenge ourselves to do more. To show up and not back down. To speak and act courageously in the spirit of our highest values.
That's what my version of a bada** warrior yogi looks like out in the wilds of our modern world.
Let's be real for a sec, that's no small order. All that I just said? It's hard work. It's an ideal to strive for, not a realistic portrayal of what's possible in every moment of every day.
Will I do my best? Yes. Will I sometimes fail? Yes. Will I get discouraged? Probably. Will I face resistance and rudeness? Very likely. And yet it's crucial that I don't give up. It's time for us all to rise into our best and stay engaged. Which means...
Conclusion 3: We must Take care of ourselves.
As Audre Lorde famously said:
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”
Just like taking action, self care can take hundreds of different forms. It could be anything from a long bath to a walk in the woods. It could be a complete break from technology. It could be finally saying the words "I need help."
You cannot be a bada** warrior yogi if you are exhausted, beaten-down, and hurting. And neither can I. We must keep ourselves nourished, sane, whole. No one can pour from an empty cup. So take good care of yourself, my friends.
There are a few resources below that have shaped my ideas in this post. Let me know if you find them useful and definitely let me know in what ways you are embodying your yoga and taking action out in the world. Let's inspire each other!!
with love always,
Articles about the power of inclusiveness, communication and listening:
How to Listen When You Disagree - Urban Confessional Blog
The Other Side Is Not Dumb - Medium.com
Derek Black Renounces White Nationalism - The Washington Post
Racism Research Study - Vox.com
Ideas for taking action:
Practical Ways to Be The Change
Make a website like this for your own community: The Solidarity Project
Ideas for self-care:
45 Self Care Practices - Tiny Buddha Blog
And this from JustJasmineBlog.com:
#yoga #yogi #warrior #action #political #compassion #listening #innernature #humanity #divine #activism #selfcare #ahimsa