As yogis we often say the word “Namaste” at the end of class. “The Light in me honors the Light in you” is one possible translation we can say as we bow to each other. And now, post-election 2016 we need to get serious about Namaste-ing each other.
This past election is not really over. Even though we are exhausted by the meanness and the inability for people of differing opinions to talk to each other, we continue to yell and roll our eyes at each other. We have vilified those making different choices from ours. We have been more vicious about this election than any I have experienced. And it is not over. SO yogis, what can we do?
We can start by doing a restorative pose—right now! By calming our nervous systems we will be ready to respond to whatever happens, rather than to react. What good is this yoga anyway, if it doesn’t help us in times of challenge? Are we really just practicing for longer hamstrings or can we put these powerful teachings to a better use? When our nervous systems are on “chill” we can be in the room with someone who disagrees with us and be curious rather than angry. Maybe only for a minute or two, but that minute matters. I recommend putting your legs up over the seat of a chair, close your eyes, cover them if you can, and do nothing for 10-15 minutes. The whole world will be a better place for it and at least we won’t be raging on Facebook during that time.
Let’s get more serious about nonviolence, especially with our words. It is appropriate, maybe even necessary these days to have strong opinions about what our country needs to do. This does not give us yogis license to be verbally violent. I am going to work harder to check my judgmental comments at the door of my mouth. If I start to say something like, “Anyone who voted for XXXX is stupid!” I will NOT let those words come out. I will put my hands over my mouth if necessary. I “know” I am right, but right is not what we need now. We need LIGHT. At the very least let’s not add to the disharmony and polarization. People on both sides of this election have bad-mouthed the other side. Join me in stopping it now and we can hold each other accountable. This will likely take more discipline than getting up at 5:00a to do our yoga practice. We can do it. In fact, let’s do both.
Training in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has been one of the best things I have learned to help me bring ahimsa (nonviolence) to my satya (truth.) It has helped me to deepen my listening skills and the skill to have a conversation in a way that both participants might enjoy. This beautiful practice has helped me to look for the deep needs behind the words of the person who is speaking. When someone says “Hillary belongs in jail,” I might hear something like, “I’m scared that no one in government is listening to me and my concerns. Hillary has been part of government for a long time so I’m going to try someone new.” This “translation” of their words helps me to see their humanity in a way I appreciate. NVC has also helped me to identify my deepest longings so I can speak from that place instead of saying something inflammatory. I can also ACT from that place with greater wisdom and effectiveness.
Now back to Namaste…this practice of seeing the Light in yourself and others is transformational if you take it seriously. First, see what is beautiful within you. Find that spark of Light that helps you feel fully alive and here on purpose. You might start by feeling into your heart but there are many ways to experience this. For some of us seeing our own beauty will not be easy but it is well worth any attention you offer this practice.
For a variety of reasons many of us are living in bubbles where we are mainly in contact with people who think like we do. Let’s make the effort to step out of this bubble to talk to someone who thinks differently than we do. Can we be calm and curious? Can we see the inner light in another even as they are saying words we don’t like or agree with? This person is also here with a purpose—it is NOT a mistake that they are alive at the same time we are. What strategies can we employ to help us pause and to know that all of us are Divine Beings?
Please know that learning more skills in our speech and in our ability to see the beauty in someone we disagree with does NOT mean that we condone all activities they may do. Not at all. It is our responsibility to act to support the values we hold dear. This may included resistance where necessary. It is my belief that our actions will be in fuller alignment with our goals as yogis and human beings when our own behavior is impeccable.
Yogis! We have tools. Will you join me making this diverse country a better place for us all to live? We have the ability to focus and sustain difficult challenges. Many of us experience and even enjoy difficulty every day in our practice. Let’s get to it.
Marcia Miller, one of the founders and owners of Yoga on High has been studying and teaching NVC for many years now. As a result of many requests and her sense of what is needed in these polarized times she is offering a 6-week course in January called Ahimsa: Dissolving Enemy Images, co-taught by Janine Harris Degitz. The link to this workshop is here.