On January 30, the yoga-music event brand launched Mindful America at its Hollywood HQ—a “conscious town hall” series that’s aiming to mobilize the country’s 50 million-strong yoga community around key political topics prior to this year’s elections.
For the kickoff event, a group of thought leaders—including spiritual trailblazer (and former California congressional candidate) Marianne Williamson, yoga instructor/activist Seane Corn, and progressive Ohio congressman Tim Ryan—gathered to discuss everything from food policy to environmental toxins to terrorism (all hot talking points for the young, liberal crowd in attendance).
“America deserves to hear thoughtful discourse around the issues of our time,” says Jeff Krasno, co-founder of Wanderlust (below with Seane Corn). “This is a forum to engage around what a mindful approach to policy might be in this incredibly important election year.” The speakers collectively point out how the Senate floor and the meditation pillow aren’t as far removed as they seem.
So, what exactly does a “mindful approach to policy” look like? Read on for some of the key takeaways from the conversation—and to brush up before hitting the fest. —Erin Magner
1. Politics and wellness are a package deal.
If you have a fridge full of organic veggies, meditate daily, and have a deep-seated fear of parabens, you can’t afford not to get involved politically. After all, many of the issues we’re facing today—from farm subsidies to pollution to crime and incarceration—circle back to health and wellness. How to help? Seane Corn recommends educating yourself on health-related issues and finding small ways to make a difference, from cutting down on your meat consumption to advocating for mindfulness training in schools and prisons.
2. We should apply our holistic thinking to policy making.
The way the political system operates now is a lot like the way a Western MD treats illness: by fixing the symptoms, but not necessarily looking for their root cause. Similarly, argued panelist Prince EA, a musician and activist, policy makers need to start digging for the deeper ‘why’ behind the issues we’re facing—not fighting terrorism with more bombs and guns, for instance, but stemming radicalization in the first place through programs addressing education, jobs, and poverty.
3. Beware the ‘oneness’ trap.
Many spiritual teachings proclaim that “we’re all one”—an idea, says Corn, that is dangerously shortsighted in today’s world. “Although we are the same energetically, we are very different,” she says. “I know I have privileges that so many of our brothers and sisters will never have. So every time I hear, ‘We are one,’ I feel it does a real disservice… because oppression is real.” The solution, she says, is not to gloss over uncomfortable topics like racism, homophobia, gender discrimination, and other forms of injustice. “We have to talk about the differences,” she says, “and recognize the ways in which we’ve been complicit in the oppression of others.”
4. Progressive politics can—and should—be spiritual.
Invoking spirituality in political chat has traditionally been a right-wing thing; as Marianne Williamson put it, “the left thinks it’s too cool to talk about moral issues.” But, she went on to add, “That over-secularization of the left is what we need to compensate for, because economic justice, racial injustice, and criminal justice are moral issues. If we are not addressing the collective trauma through the lens of these [spiritual] principles of wisdom, then we’re withholding our gifts.” In other words, says Prince EA, political issues should be approached with love—and love, he says, “means responding from a peaceful center, not a place of hatred or fear.”
5. Personal transformation leads to national transformation.
We get it, it’s hard to navigate the world of activism. If you’re not sure where to start, Prince EA suggests taking a page from any personal growth book: “We need to ask ourselves, am I living authentically? Do I have a vision of what I want the world to be? Find yourself, then things happen.” Use your gifts to serve others in a way that’s meaningful for you—and you’ll make Williamson extra happy if that involves running for office. “We don’t need to get people to vote,” she proclaimed. “We need to give them more cool people to vote for.”
Ready to change the world, from your mat? Here’s how you can bring service to others into your yoga routine.
(Photos: for Wanderlust Hollywood)
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