Friday, August 31, 2012

Dhyana: the yoga of voting

A student asked me how yogis decide how to vote. How yoga could help them make the best decision and do the greatest good for the most people?

First, I have no idea. I am one lone yogini, representing only myself and my deranged, neurotic birds. Their interests are (usually) met equally well by all candidates, and they are less than helpful when election time rolls around.

Second, Patanjali said some interesting things about voting. Mainly, you have to be in your right mind in order to make good decisions. You have to be sure you're not affected by one of the other four states of consciousness: illusion, imagination, sleep, and memory. (I.8-11).

That's a big one. And that's how everyone tries to catch your vote.

Illusion is something you perceive that isn't the truth, either because someone wants you to believe it or because you aren't receiving the information correctly. Attack ads rely on illusion to make you question your personal truth or reaffirm something you would like to believe that you know isn't true. Do you remember the birth certificate fiasco? It wasn't newsworthy for one second ever, and I just wasted another one. Sorry.

Imagination is where candidates try to capture your heart. Pandering to your ability to imagine the world in a better state than it is, they paint pictures with babies, puppies, and money that comes from outer space. Or the Middle East. Or the 1%.

Thankfully, sleep infiltration is still the stuff of science fiction. Rest easily my friends. Easily and often.

Memory is so insidious, because it is completely inaccurate. We never remember things the way they were, because that doesn't make for happy stories or nice endings. We remember the best of everything, and the advertisers prey on our vulnerability. Nostalgia lifts candidates onto the shoulders of earlier greats, creating new associations that are often undeserved and irrelevant.

So... how do yogis vote?

I'm telling you, I only speak for the three of us, but I think yogis see voting like slot machines and dance cards: something invented to distract you from the work that wants to be done, or to push you into the crowd when you'd rather rest your feet. I think yogis jump in with both feet, focus on what they can in the moment, and cozy up for as long as possible to that right-mind. They let the stats and the soundbites swirl through their hair and drop into the place where the object of meditation and the meditator become one. Like the 14th hour of a solo road trip, when the road becomes the driver and time dissolves, they find the voting zone and just get it done.

What don't they do?

When practicing yoga, it is impossible to coerce another person, berate them, post nasty commentary on their Facebook walls. Yogis cultivate the right-mind and say nice things that are their personal truth, without the goal of distancing themselves from others. Defaming or degrading another person makes as much sense to the yogini as slapping her own hand.

A yogini votes each time she comes to her mat, sits silently in the leaves, or breathes deeply. She votes for more people to use their right-mind more often and for higher levels of compassion. And she vote for the calmness of mind that allows email chains to be deleted and nasty comments to sit unanswered.

But above all, a yogini votes.