Over the past week, Donald Trump’s first week as US president, I have been feeling my psoas muscle firing up at the most unusual times. It is as if I’m waiting for the next terrible thing to happen, but in fact, it already has. In the moment it takes to sign pen to paper, Donald Trump has taken away the right to move freely; something inherent to human beings, something many of us forget are in our roots as nomadic tribes people who relied on relocation for survival.
In case you are wondering what and where you psoas muscle is, it is a long, ropey muscle that attaches the legs to the spine. It lives in the same compartment of the body as the kidneys and adrenal glands, and is responsible for helping us to run. The psoas has a close relationship to our fight or flight nervous system. It is said to hold fear, and for many who sit at a computer all day, it spends all that time shortening rather than lengthening. In this shortened state it does not function with the ease or grace of our nomadic hunter gather ancestors who were ready to run at a moment’s notice.
Our problem is that while most of us are not ready to run due to poor diets and lack of mobility, we are more fearful than ever before as a society. We are reactive and in a pattern of flexion, if not from our desk bound existence then from the concentric superficial strength we seek at the gym as we work towards the fashionable six-pack. If not for vanity, we curl in out of protection of our need to appear strong, or maybe even out of shame at what is unfolding on the world stage. This shows up in the fibers of our body.
When we are concerned with protecting our self we are reactive, whereas when we are concerned for all we are pro-active. A pro-active world would be one where we all are doing the best we can to lay the seeds and foundation for peace and inclusivity rather than building walls which foster exclusivity. This more broad-reaching world begins with the seedlings we plant in our lifestyle. It begins with how we think.
We are members of various, intertwined communities, or tribes. Some are based on geography and others on belief or even blood. Every choice we make as individuals and as members of communities affect the world in which we live. Politics refer to the people where we live and interact with in daily life. The word political comes from the word polis and polit meaning city and citizen, respectively. Being political is important because it means we care about the world we live in, it means we want to take part in meaningful and fruitful interactions with the people we live with. We co-exist in a world with many types of people. We live under the same sun, we breathe the same air, we drink the same water. Our individual actions affect all commonly shared resources. All our actions -reactive, proactive or non-active- are political.
We determine our shared future by the actions we take and choices we make in the immediate present, wherever we are. Our karmas (actions) are intricately intertwined with politic, and it is of the utmost importance to make conscious, educated choices that will inevitably shape our communities far and near.
The yoga practice is about cleaning up our actions. Karma Yoga literally translates as the perfection (Yoga) of action (Karma). The yogi acts perfectly because the action is eccentric, moving away from self-serving, individual interests, instead considering what is best for the whole. To be politically active means to actively look after the safety and welfare of all with whom you live. Caring for others will bring you closer to freedom than any other action.
To vote means to vow, to wish, to express an opinion, to choose, endorse or to authorize. We vote with every action we take. We cast our vote every time we purchase something, and we also cast a vote of sorts when we choose to stay silent. We may complain about the greed of government and corporations or accuse the media or politicians of fraudulent information or corruption. Complaining and finger pointing are a choice we might make to help us feel better as an individual for a limited period of time. Ultimately though, these actions limit us rather than free us; when we become accustomed to these methods of coping we tend to carry the negativity with us all the time and never have any sense of real achievement.
Freedom comes from taking responsibility, from being political, and from voting as conscious consumers. Freedom also comes from being kind. The word kind comes from kin, meaning family or child. If we were to treat the whole world with kindness, as our own family or better, as our child, we would not have much need to protect ourselves – we would protect one another instead.