The Lesser of Two Evils

(Note to the reader:  As much as I tried to be inspired to write about something other than politics, I failed, and this writing is political in nature.  It is the season, I guess.  If you want to avoid that, feel free to just stop reading now.  I write this piece primarily for those of you, AND THERE ARE MANY in this country right now, who feel, AGAIN, that their presidential choice boils down to the option of the lesser of two evils.  If you don’t feel that way, lucky you.  This article is not for you.  Check back next time.

If you think I should only write or talk about only inspiring and “non-controversial” things, then maybe you haven’t been to my class in a while… and hopefully this article IS inspiring in some way.  I believe that yoga is INHERENTLY about disrupting the status quo and the shaking up the comfortable lie that we all try to tell ourselves.  I share what I do here not to convince anyone of any particular decision but to give a perspective that I haven’t seen anywhere else.  I don’t expect everyone to agree.  If you have a difficult time disagreeing respectfully, a problem which the current political climate is RIFE with, then just go ahead and vote your fanatical “conscience” and don’t read this article.  The introspective and politically troubled may feel free to read on.)

Imagine if your yoga practice was driven by the continual choice of the lesser of two evils.  For a not-too-improbable example, taking here “evil” to mean “hurtful” (as good a definition as any), in your warrior I, every time you go into it, you have a choice to hurt your hip flexor or your knee.  It’s “your choice,” but your teacher (or you) says “it’s got to be one or the other.”  We could also imagine in the bow pose, choosing between hurting your SI joint or lower back vertebrae.  Either way is fine but that’s the only choice you have: one or the other.  It’s an artificial, completely made-up situation …or is it?  I mention it to put that idea/criteria for decision-making into a different context than it’s usual one to show a different perspective on it.  I also mention it because without experiencing this quandary in our inner life, there would be no way that it would be showing up in the “outside” world.

A more likely situation that you may have actually experienced that in the moment is experienced as a “lesser-of-two-evils” decision though it is not really is seeming to have a choice between hurting some currently, or chronically, pained part of your body and getting a “good stretch” OR “nothing” is happening!  Have you been there?  I know a lot of you have, and I certainly have.  I include this “not real” lesser-of-two-evils scenario here since perception is sometimes as much as “real.”

What would you do?  Though this question is, again, framed within a particular context, that being yoga, maybe it’s applicable in other situations in life.  Honestly, I see people in yoga classes struggling in this choice almost every day.  Many it seems are content, or they at least try to do the mental gymnastics to feel content, making the decision to hurt or continue to hurt their body or emotional being rather than make the difficult and apparently painful decision to respect their body and its feedback and to then live with the (imagined terrible) results (of not measuring up to their standard, of not “pleasing” the teacher, of not doing what everyone else is doing, of not being “good enough”, of “failing” in yoga, of “not progressing,” of being “lazy,” … the list is endless, but maybe you see some of yourself in some of that).

On the mat, if yoga were about choosing the lesser of two evils, who would do yoga?  Only an insane, masochistic person, I guess.  Initially, when our sensitivity and awareness is somewhat low and our body is on the younger and more forgiving side, we can get away with some degree of “hurtfulness” without long-term repercussions…to a point.  At some point with increased longevity of practice, resulting, we expect, in increased awareness and sensitivity but also increased self-compassion and respect, we start to learn to make decisions that are not hurtful, ultimately, to ANY part of our being.  The quieter parts of ourself (body, emotions and mind) start to be  more easily heard and are part of the inner decision-making process.  The louder parts no longer speak in apparent representation of the quieter, weaker parts, but learn to quietly and respectfully listen and respond.  This shift clearly has not (yet) happened in the political world, probably since not enough human individuals have made that shift (yet) in themselves.

In my yoga practice, on my more aware, sensitive, loving days, I am very intent on listening and respecting all of the feedback I am getting.  In yoga classes, I am willing to work very hard to help people find a place in the pose that is helpful, not hurtful, though possibly still very (physically, emotionally or mentally) challenging or uncomfortable.  Would you want ME as teacher instead to be making a choice of the lesser of two evils?  I think most who come to my classes don’t.

I think this process of increased learning and respectfully responding transfers readily off the mat.  As time goes on, I think, growing wisdom and compassion means hurting not only myself but OTHERS also less and less, EVEN and especially UNKNOWING hurting!  (Don’t think in any way that I have perfected this!)  As the reading in classes of late has been, we need NOT JUST awareness to effect healing (healing which we all need personally, as well as our country and our entire human world need!).  In addition to awareness, we also need acceptance, equanimity, compassion, self-soothing, and the nurturing energy of “The Mother.”  WITH that second piece anchored in our being, then I think the apparent “choice” between the lesser of two evils (and who says it’s just TWO things that we’re choosing from???) can be seen and experienced in a new light that will allow us to make the most loving, compassionate decision that is most consistent with our own conscience without fear or guilt or expectation.

If we come from fear, in yoga practice or life (which both major political parties are encouraging), then we won’t make the most intelligent choices.  It’s just a fact.  If the outside world is loud and fragmented and fearful, isn’t it just reflecting the inner world?  How can we expect any clarity from such a situation?  However if we can come from an integrated and loving place, then we can make decisions that will ultimately lead to our world reflecting our inner state.  This is what the world needs now!  Our yoga and meditation practice can and will help us be more and more grounded in that.

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