Lessons from the Pandavas for the Trump Era

What to do when the devil has orange skin & the worst comb over ever & wears ill-fitting designer suits?

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There’s an old saw among spiritual practitioners that if you think you’re making great strides in your evolution, just spend a week with your family. Family’s a piece of cake compared with the current challenge to equanimity. These days, a great test of your spiritual progress is how you respond to living under a regime that aims to undermine every bit of compassion & inclusion & social well-being accrued in the past century, that wants to give everything to the wealthy & take everything away from the poor, that can’t tell the difference between truth & lies, that cares only about lining its own pockets, that thinks there’s nothing wrong & everything right with groping women, that well, you know. …

So how are you doing?

Since November 9, I have been beside myself with anger & frustration & fear, which seem—in addition to utter disbelief—like perfectly reasonable emotional responses to having the country as you knew it yanked out from under your feet, having the dream replaced with a nightmare beyond even Wes Craven’s imagination, with

On Jan. 26, thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock advanced 30 seconds closer to midnight.

On Jan. 26, thanks to Trump, the Doomsday Clock advanced 30 seconds closer to midnight.

discovering that you now live in a totally alt universe, in another solar system far, far away from the one you lived in the day before. Reasonable, yes, but also disturbing responses for a yogini, for one who has spent many years working to purify her thoughts, her perceptions, her world view from one based in fear to one whose foundation is love & compassion, hope & abundance (yes, I know, I’ve still got a LOT of work to do).

What to do? As Manorama, my first Sanskrit teacher, always says: Stay engaged. Do something. Don’t panic. Translation: Keep abreast of the news, sign petitions, call representatives, join a community action group.

In normal times, contacting your reps on Capitol Hill doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, but these are not normal times. Kathryn Schulz revealed in a New Yorker article last month that phone calls are indeed working: “For constituent activity to have more immediate effects on the actions of lawmakers,” certain conditions must apply, including “a huge quantity of people acting in concert, an unusually high pitch of passion, a specific countervailing vision, and consistent press coverage unfavorable to sitting politicians.” If a member of congress gets 600 to 1,000 calls in a day, that’s a flood. In February, Sen. Cory Gardner (Colorado Republican) got 3,000 calls in one night!

According to my congressman, Jared Polis, when the House voted in private (they are such cowards!), on January 2, to defang the Office of Congressional Ethics, they had to reverse their decision once their phones started ringing off the hook. And we all know what happened with the Republican health no-care plan.

Doing something is better than doing nothing. Doing nothing, as Krishna points out in The Bhagavad Gita, the über text of righteous action, is doing something (“He who perceives inaction in action & action in inaction is wise among men,” IV. 18)—too many of us doing nothing (including the previous administration in light of what they knew about Russian meddling) is a big part of the reason we’re in this pickle. Complacency = Complicity.

There are days when I take heart, days, say, when yet another Trump appointee is fired or has to recuse himself or otherwise falls from grace (yes, always “him”), days when I can see the glimmest glimmer of light at the end of this darkest of dark tunnels. But there are also days when I can’t do anything, when I can’t listen to the news or make a phone call or go to a meeting or post something uplifting, when I just want to pull the covers over my head and, like the refugee children in Sweden who have given up all hope, go to sleep & wake up when it’s over.

But this is not the time to go to sleep. Nor is it a time to storm the barricades. This is the time to dig in, to remember that the asuras (demons) always make a tragic mistake—that their hubris & ignorance inevitably bring them down.

Long, long ago, when the entire earth was covered by water, the asuras Madhu & Kaitabha were engaged in a 5,000-year war with Vishnu, preserver of the world. Everyone was getting tired but no one was giving up. M & K, impressed with V’s two-against-one battle skills, patronizingly offered him a boon. He, being no dummy, said, Sure, thanks—let me kill you!

They’d been had, but unlike certain persons with power, they were too honorable to go back on their word (or change the rules! Or say the rules didn’t apply to them!). Still, thinking they could outsmart V, they said, So be it—kill us where water doesn’t cover the land. No problem, thought Vishnu. He picked them up, laid them across his ginormous lap & whacked their heads off with his discus.

Madhu & Kaitabha get theirs from Vishnu & light overcomes darkness once again.

Madhu & Kaitabha get theirs from Vishnu & light overcomes darkness once again.

OK, so 5,000 years is a long time, notwithstanding the fact that 1 year of Brahma equals 4,320,000,000 human years (that’s even longer than cat years!), so what to do while we wait?

Get strong, develop tactical maturity, become skillful activists, do our practices. In a Chitheads podcast, Sally Kempton, a wisdom elder, counsels us to be like the Pandavas (the good guys) in the prelude to the war that was the backdrop for The Bhagavad Gita. When they lost the dice game that lost them their kingdom & were exiled to the forest for twelve years, they spent that time doing sadhana (spiritual practices) & enlisting allies (& accruing an arsenal thanks to the gods). They cultivated strength & stability in themselves on a deeper level by working with their frustration, channeling that energy into something that could liberate them rather than mire them further in darkness.

“Terror, lust, anger & sadness can be ladders to transcendence.”

— Sally Kempton

Whether you meditate or don’t, whether you practice asana or not, you probably have habits or rituals that ground you, that make you feel whole, nourished, like your best self. Now is the time to commit even more fervently to those practices. To eat healthfully. To get rest. Maybe some of the other things that help to ground me & keep me focused on a brighter future rather than mired in a sense of helplessness & despair can help you too:

  • Start your day with a cup of warm lemon water (juice of half a lemon). Yes, before your coffee. If I can do it, so can you. It’s good for your digestion, & for me having to wait for my coffee, cultivating a wee bit of patience & discipline first thing in the morning, sets my day up for more success.
  • Be kinder—opportunities abound!
  • Stay engaged.
  • Disengage. Unplug. Step away from the screen. A whole day once a week would be awesome. I turned off the email on my phone months ago & it is soooooo liberating (small “l”).
  • Be normal.
  • Do one small thing every day & one bigger thing every week to connect to the greater good.
  • Take yourself on dates—yes, just you—even if it’s just to the tub for a soak & silence.
  • Do something frivolous—occasionally!

Think of developing inner strength by nurturing yourself not as narcissistic self-indulgence but as an offering to the world. Because being your best self inspires others to be their best selves & if we were all our best selves, well. …

In Power vs. Force, Dr. David Hawkins quantified consciousness (of people, events, objects) & wrote about its interconnectedness—how the consciousness of one person who calibrates above average raises the consciousness of the whole world. Consciousness is measured logarithmically (you can look it up!), so each point gained has an exponential impact.

Power is different from force. Force rates low on the scale of consciousness, power high. It was through power that Mahatma Gandhi (who calibrated at 700)* was victorious over the self-interest & exploitation of the British Empire (a measly 175, which was below the critical level of 200 associated with integrity & courage). As Hawkins wrote, “Whenever force meets power, force is eventually defeated.”

Which is to say that when we are all our best selves, we rise together & lift everyone up with us & will be powerfully & inevitably invincible. Lotus

* The scale goes to 1,000, but only avatars like Krishna, the Buddha & Christ reach that high. Just for perspective, peeps like Einstein, Freud, Barak Obama, Nobel Prize winners & Supreme Court justices generally calibrate in the 400 range.

2019-01-18T22:28:55+00:00April 11th, 2017|Featured, philosophy, politics, Yoga|

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