As I write this letter, the presidential election has not yet been decided. The world is in an obvious state of flux, and I have found myself becoming more passionately political than ever. As with any passion, it can be hard to keep it in check, and I have noticed myself slipping a few remarks into my teaching—nothing too incendiary—just a funny reference here or there, but enough to make my choice clear. I didn’t think much about it at first, not until I began to notice how upset I would get when someone made a casual remark or reference about my candidate.
Then, I read something in a yoga book, where the teacher was explaining about changing people’s minds and the flow of energy. The point was simple: You will never change people’s minds by forcing your opinions or getting angry with them. You may make some headway with logic, but even that tact is likely to fail. The only effective way to cause change is to simply be the change. Living authentically in all your actions can, and does, eventually cause an energetic shift that may provoke change.
Another well-taken yogic point is that if you continually focus on negative aspects or poke fun or make disparaging remarks about a person or event, you are feeding into that person or event. You are giving that person importance by the simple fact that you are bringing attention their way. So, in the end, you will have contributed to their cause.
All of this made me rethink my actions, and I recalled that while many people laughed and shook their heads in agreement with my remarks, not everyone was smiling. There were obviously other opinions in the room, and I had probably made them angry and possibly even ruined their practice. Not a very thoughtful way for a yoga teacher to act.
From that point on, in the classroom, as well as out, I have stepped off my soapbox and kept my opinions to myself. People remain focused on their asanas and any political discussions take place where they belong—in the locker room, the parking lot, or at home. But if I do find myself engaged in a proper political discussion, I stay focused on the good points of my candidate, and try to listen with more compassion to opposing opinions. I’m pretty certain I won’t change my mind, but if I can listen and react with kindness and acceptance, I might be able to, at the very least, cause someone to respond with equal kindness.
And that’s change everyone can believe in.
Congratulations to our new president, let’s hope for better days ahead!