Abhinivesha in a Liberal Age

Well, nothing quite sets the rajas/tamas pendulum in motion like a federal election. Particularly when your fellow countrymen elect an ultra-conservative party geared to set any form of social liberalism back by about two hundred years.

Without going into the boring hows and whys of the politics involved (for those who don’t live in my country or who don’t have much education or interest in politics), I can dilute the predictable outcome into one neat sentence for you: under the newly-elected Australian government, citizens who have enough (and anything upward of enough) won’t notice much difference to their quality of life while citizens who have little, will have even less. And let me assure you, when you already feel as if you’re hanging on by a financial thread, this is a legitimately terrifying idea that keeps you awake at nights and anxious throughout the days.

There’s your rajas.

It’s also profoundly dispiriting. Because, not only will disadvantaged people have less access to practical resources (and have to weather the knock-on effects, ergo less opportunity to ‘thrive’ in life), we’re also having to process the idea that the majority of our fellow countrymen who actively chose to vote for an even LESS PROGRESSIVE government than the one we already had, are either (a) profoundly ignorant, or (b) don’t really care. Either way, a jagged little pill.

If you’ve struggled to be ‘economically productive’ in life in one way or another and have needed welfare assistance then it’s highly likely you’ve already endured your eternity wearing the labels of ‘bludger’ or ‘loser’ or ‘rorter of systems’, if not overtly by people around you, or via the media, then via the dehumanising attitude lurking beneath the various human services systems that essentially make you beg for your rights and continually threaten to take them away on the grounds of superfluous un-ticked boxes. You’ve probably had many more than one person say to you, ‘at least you’re not living in {insert country far worse off}’ – Poof! There goes your right to any legitimate claim of suffering. Such ingratitude for the things you have. Never mind you’re desperately afraid and socially isolated. Never mind that.

For your own emotional and spiritual survival, you’ve probably had to re-create some other sense of self-worth in order to survive a society that doesn’t really seem to, on the whole, value you all that much. What are you ‘contributing’ if not taxes or economic productivity? Why should you have access to all the things that money buys when you haven’t worked for them? Why should ‘hard-working’ people share their spoils with you? Apparently in the same way than ‘unsuccessful’ people are responsible for their ‘failures’, ‘successful’ people are alone responsible for their ‘success’, not because of any opportunities they’ve been advantaged with themselves (and that includes robust mental or physical constitutions, or aptitudes or personality traits that they are blessed to have been born with – not that they have earned).

Only the most super-conscious can protect themselves from absorbing the subliminal (and not so subliminal) message – you’re a ‘drain’ on society and you’re not ‘worth’ as much. If only you were a better person. If only you worked harder.

There’s your tamas.

So how do we (I) get back to Sattwa? How do we (I) generate a sense of peace and balance when we have lost trust in the world to help us when we need help? How do we (I) dilute the bitterness we feel at being perpetually labelled and misinterpreted and punished with a violence that is so insidious and covert that most would not even recognise it as such, including those who issue it?

If we consider yoga philosophy in earnest, then the ultimate way of dealing with the terrors of such things is to have no emotional attachment to any earthly happenings or sufferings, including the biggest one – our own mortality (try it, it’s really easy!). That, or have absolute faith that whatever happens to us is designed for a ‘higher purpose’ or is an expression of our own karma (excuse me if I and any other struggling people choke on the idea of being subjected to such a sadistic learning process for ‘our own good’).

Let’s be honest – it’s impractical to go fundamental with the yoga in this case (for this little duck, anyway).

I do know what I could embrace though – and here is where I’m not a victim of external circumstances and do have choices. I could, for starters, switch on the parasympathetic nervous system with the breath (ujjayi, yogic breath, bhramari – any of the ‘tranquilisers’) . I could consider how the yamas and niyamas might guide me (and be ok with ahimsa sitting last on my list for now). I could work the tensions out with some asana practice. I could go and do some karma yoga – help out somebody else. I could do some Om writing to calm the mind. I could read my yoga texts for hope and inspiration. I could antar moun it for twenty minutes – oh, no wait, who am I kidding? I’m not going to sit in a corner and be still and quiet. Things are a little too ‘gross’ to be subtle right now. I could engage in a little swadhyaya (self-study) by writing about my thoughts and feelings in a blog post… now there’s a grand idea.

(c) The Yoga Experiment, 2013