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Political Discourse and Dhyana

I was listening to to this wonderful story on NPR's All Things Considered and the very brave account by the Arizona Republic's publisher Mi-Ai Parrish. The paper has endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. This is the first time in the paper's history that they've endorsed a Democrat in a national election, and since the endorsement they have received multiple violent and horrible death threats.

Unfortunately, this story didn't shock me terribly. Political discourse in this country has downgraded in the last several years and the ability to respectfully disagree is eluding too many of us. I do not, my friends, write from a place of superiority, but rather right there in the trenches.

I have felt the pangs of real disgust when I hear support for policies that would deport millions, deny refugees asylum, restrict the rights of women and minorities, or limit marriage only to heterosexuals. My mind goes immediately into a place of judgement that those with those beliefs must not share the same compassion that I have. I am quick to look down on them and have made a habit surrounding myself with like-minded people, which the brilliant Asma Khalid points out is becoming increasingly common. It's all too easy to look down on them with judgement and write them off.

But then there's my best self, that my yoga practice allows me to connect with. My best self has the ability to pause, take a breath, and ponder a little more deeply. Isn't it possible that these people with a completely different set of beliefs from my own could have equally positive intentions? They have a different worldview that causes them to have a different vision of this country at it's best and I should respect that. If I can listen from this place of respect and compassion then I can really listen and find more intersections of agreement.

The seventh limb of yoga, dhyana, is achieved in meditation when we recognize our oneness with all of creation. I have to recognize that this includes Donald Trump, his supporters, and others that I profoundly disagree with. I can work hard to elect leaders that will move towards progressive policies that I support. I can do this work at the same time that I respectfully disagree with our political opponents. The yogic practice here is to hold space for both. It's not easy, but I am going to keep at it and hope others join me!

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