I’ve been morbidly fascinated by the developments (or lack of) around Brexit these last few weeks. The mind boggles with the backward-thinking that has been on display in certain quarters. The pigheadedness, obstinance, and pure self-interest that has been demonstrated by a number of politicians has been staggering. Yes, we have been conditioned to expect less and less from our elected representatives over the years but this is taking it to a new level.
Nationalism has reared its ugly head again in the last decade or so throughout much of Europe and the politics of division has proven to be very popular. In the United States, some of Donald Trump’s policies are paving the way for all-out fascism (disguised as ‘patriotism’).
In an age when it feels like we should be breaking down borders and embracing our fellow earthlings, there are those who wish to isolate themselves from all other cultures, traditions, ethnicities. The very fact that on a global scale, through technological innovation, we are becoming socially, economically and culturally closer to each other is understandably uncomfortable for people who are frightened of whatever lies outside their own limited world-view.
When people feel disempowered in their lives they become frightened of everything.
So they want to leave the EU, close the borders, build a wall, imprison asylum seekers and lock up their children. Do anything to discourage the ‘invasion’ from beyond, of people who are ‘not us’.
When we should be encouraging the global community to co-operate towards achieving our combined physical, intellectual, emotional, economic, cultural, environmental and spiritual well-being we are, instead, running in the other direction.
I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to practise yoga since my mid-twenties. In the above context, I see practising yoga as a sort of inoculation against these extreme ideas of nationalism, xenophobia, and of the concept of ‘native vs foreign’.
When we practice yoga – through whatever alchemy there is within the breathing, postures, and drishti, combined with some rudimentary study of yoga philosophy – we slowly come to realise that each of us shares a collective consciousness with all of our fellow men and women, and indeed all sentient life. We come to know, in a visceral sense, that we are all one on planet earth. Whatever pain and suffering we inflict on ‘others’ is inflicted in turn upon us.
Something happens to us underneath the surface when we practise yoga with earnestness. We start to see ourselves in others and others in ourselves. We become immune to hate and, if we want to, we can start to become a beacon for acceptance, tolerance, and love in the world. Fear in all senses can be overcome through self-empowerment.
We must keep practising and keep on spreading this knowledge or we might find ourselves building bigger and bigger walls until we are the only ones left inside the prison.