Although I posted this in the last major election, it seems pretty relevant for a year where we are in hot debate about the candidates.
Have no fear; there's no political agenda here. That's the point of this article--to free you of agendas and overreactions.
This freedom will help open new perspectives. Yoga can help keep hearts open, minds clear, and bodies free from unnecessary tension during the weeks of election stress.
Have you ever felt, while debating (or arguing over) politics with someone, your mouth becoming dry, hair standing on end, breath quickening, or a clenching of your jaw, belly or buttocks? What may be happening on the physiological level while those darts shoot from your eyes? You may be going into a "fight or flight" protective state, which can be brought on by your central nervous system’s instinctive reaction to perceived states of emergency.
What might your body be trying to protect you from, exactly? Psychologically, the thinking is that you are protecting your ego or sense of self. Your ego involves many things, including your values, beliefs, and opinions. In many cases you have spent a lifetime building this idea of your ‘ideal’ self as a result of your collective ego.
From a yogic point of view, there's no one true perspective. Every perspective is relative to others. It is not “un-yogic” to have an opinion or commitment, but it becomes a source of suffering when we attach to a particular agenda or attitude. It becomes a problem when we are certain that our position is the only “cool,” righteous and just viewpoint. This problem perpetuates itself when we try to recruit and convince people to be like us.
All our judgments, feelings and desires are mental formations developed by the many different aspects of our being, including conditioning. Because of this, we adopt a particular perspective. It's essential to remember that this perspective is limited and subject to change; and certainly in each electoral year!
The fact that things are in a constant state of flux is helpful to contemplate when we get stuck in our small and sometimes petty agendas. If we stay within the box of only what we know, we cling to patterns, which limit our full potential. We may never come to experience freedom.
Our craving for continuity causes the attachment to “the familiar.” We feel safe within the constraints of our self-constructed environments. We overly identify with both the external environment of our homes and jobs and the internal environment of our ideals and beliefs. This confinement removes us from the flow of life.
The practice of yoga enables us to build the stamina and courage to travel to uncertain territories. If we can learn from our yoga practice to step out of our cozy ideas of the known and open ourselves to new ways of being, then we can begin to be free. Through yoga postures, we are moving the body and mind in unique ways to create new neural pathways and offer new perspectives. Eventually we can become free of perspective. A good mantra to have is "All I know is that I do not know". It is healthy to question our ideologies and be willing to have it all wrong.
In the weeks and months leading up to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, notice if there is some heat or "charge" in your body and mind if and when you debate politics with others or consume a great deal of social media. If you can become a witness to this reaction, then you are beginning the journey of dismantling the conditioning or habitual patterns which may bind you. This requires some practice of course and some savvy to be able to watch the subtleties, which can be causing inhibiting attitudes. Sometimes the little judgments, criticisms or unkind thoughts are subtle but still do not serve us.
There are many ways to shift perspective in the short run. Go for a walk, read something inspirational, or talk to a friend. However, in the long run if we do not get to the root of these negative charges, then like weeds they will grow back. Yoga aims to get at the root by drawing awareness to the negative patterns and then applying the antidote by working deeply within the central nervous system.
We have the potential to be like a diamond which has many sides and therefore able to reflect a brilliant light. This bright light can be a beacon in the year of elections.