Like many other people in America, I have been over run with politics over the past few weeks. Between the primaries, The Flint Water Crisis, and some key hot button issues, there seems to be nothing else that people are even willing to talk about. These are so much so in our faces that it feels like we must pick a candidate, get angry, and pick a side; as if we are no longer allowed to have a thought else where least we be labeled ‘ignorant’ for not keeping up.
One thing about this whole climate that completely boggles my mind, is not only how many of my independent business owning friends have been able to say very little; but how tactfully they have been able to stay out of the mess, particularly my yoga instructor friends. Still with some recent developments and deep thinking, I began to wonder if this policy of unaligned is really one that we want to have as conscious spiritual leaders?
As I have been delving deeper into many of my spiritual parts, I read “The Autobiography of a Yogi”. At one point Yogananda met Gandhi during his last time in India. Gandhi happens to also be one of the many people I find very inspiring and while reading this chapter I began to reminisce about when I read his autobiography. Say what you will about Gandhi, but not only was he one of India’s spiritual leaders; but he was also their main political leader, single handedly leading numerous changes to British policies that eventually lead to the Independence of India on August 14 1947.
Gandhi is not the only yogi with a political agenda to help the world for the betterment of itself. David Life and Sharon Gannon the founders of Jivamukti Yoga, a growing movement around the world, also advocate for yogis to be vocal about politics, mainly the policies that are holding us back from being the best we can be as a world collective. Gannon and Life advocate that political involvement is not only a path to enlightenment, but a duty of every yogi. Particularly when it comes to animal rights and environmental policies they say,
“Yoga is not for everyone. Not everyone is dissatisfied with his or her present condition. Some people are not consciously seeking the source of their own being. But for those who are, the practice of ahimsa is a primary importance, due to its transformational effect on the mind and, consequently, the body. The body/mind consciousness, or personality, is purified through ethical vegetarianism and the practice of ahimsa.”
To see more about their views on environmentalism and veganism please read their book “Practices for Liberating Body and Soul Jivamukti Yoga”
Still it sounds great on paper to say we are all going to start standing up for the policy changes we believe in; but then there is the perception that goes out into the world. The push back that can happen as being labeled as one of ‘those’. “Don’t encourage your students to be vegan, you will become one of ‘those’ instructors.” “oh you support that candidate? You must be one of ‘those’ hippies, or one of ‘those’ squares”. Of course we should not be daunted by what others think about us, we also do not want to alienate ourselves away from clients because of what we believe.
Then how can we be vocal about the changes we want to see in the world, and still walk the murky waters of keeping existing clients and building with out being labeled? Where is our Middle Path? For most the answer would be about changing ourselves before changing the world. Even in my signature on my email I quote Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”; but is that enough? Gandhi saw the problems of his world, and he did not just roll over and let them happen. He stood up and changed both himself and the world.
So then in this atmosphere swirling with politically charged energy, I have begun to ask myself, ‘is the policy of staying out of it really the best way to go?’ Even when it comes to the possibility of loosing business, friends, and straining family relationships; is it worth it to be vocal? Yes. I agree with Gannon, Life, and Gandhi, it is not only worth the risk of speaking up; but rather our duty as community leaders – and all of us are community leaders in our own way. There is tact to it sure, but it does not stop a one of us from standing up and saying something. With much of the political atmosphere we defiantly need to stand up and say something, least we allow ourselves to start taking steps backwards in our development as a global consciousness.