Alright folks, it's time to talk politics. I know that this can be an inflammatory subject (especially right now) but, to me, that makes it all the more important to talk about. I want you to know that my intention here is not to convince you to think the way I do. I want to focus on our own personal beliefs, reactions, and the way we talk to each other. I know I'm not the only one who is tired of our political commentary right now. I'm sure I'm not the only one tired of of exaggerated and self-righteous Facebook memes designed to divide. I know I'm not the only one who is frustrated with our current conversation being stuck at "I'm right, you're wrong, that's it."
As we dive into this topic, I want to invite us all to employ the same compassionate self-awareness at the heart of our yoga practice. Let us be open to examination of ourselves, our beliefs, and our reactions. Let us work towards a place where we can actually converse with each other rather plug our ears with our fingers. This matters more than us as individuals. Our choices in this election will have profound effects on the entire world.
On that note, let's talk about one thing holding us back from having deeper and more compassionate conversations, the ego.
What's Ego Got To Do, Got To Do With It
We all have one. We often think of it in negative terms. But what is it? I believe we, as humans, contain this center of Self that has no label, no agenda. It is constant and unchanging through whatever we go through in life. I see the ego almost like all the ways we dress up that Self. It's our labels, beliefs, hobbies, musical tastes, careers, all of the stuff that shifts and changes through our lives. Given this description, I don't think the ego is necessarily a bad thing. It's how we differentiate ourselves in our world. However, it's easy to over-identify our Self with these changeable aspects of who we are. It's what most of us are taught to do. But, are we really only as valuable as these identifiers we take on through life?
Speaking from my own experience, I came to the yoga mat with some pretty terrible beliefs about myself. It never occurred to me to question these beliefs because they simply felt like the truth. While the details belong in a separate blog, holding these beliefs as truth really stunted my ability to be the happy, healthy person I wanted to be. However, practicing the non-judgemental "inquiry of yoga" completely changed my life, from the inside out. I discovered more options and new perspectives which allowed me to become a more compassionate, confident, and happy human being on my own terms.
Step Back and Observe
So, can we bring that same sense of inquiry to the rest of our personal and political beliefs? Not to imply that what you believe right now is wrong or stupid or needs to be changed. But there is a clear and, I think, detrimental trend of holding our beliefs so sacred that there is no room for learning or growth. It's as if we think that if our opinion changes, that means there was something wrong with us, deep down. Is it possible that's not true? Is it possible that, while what we value is certainly important, we don't have to take different opinions and new information so personally? Is it possible that, as Walt Whitman says, we contain multitudes and we are much more nuanced and complex than the letter we put next to our name?
Yes, it can be incredibly challenging to open up and explore our habits and beliefs. It's going to take courage, compassion (for ourselves and others), and lots of practice. I truly believe, however, that we are more than capable of doing so. It may be the only way out of this political quagmire. So, let us set an intention to turn the destructive, divisive energy around us and use it as inspiration to be more thoughtful, more engaged, and more open. Let us converse, debate, and disagree with respect and maturity. Let us lead by example and, in our own individual ways, come together to create change.
In closing, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your time and attention. This was a challenging blog for me to write and I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read it and, perhaps, considering these points in your own life. I wrote this as much as a reminder to myself as anyone else and, if this did resonate, I invite you to check out part two. In it, I share with you actions and practices I have been using to bring the above points more deeply into my life.