Beyond Meditation: How Else Can Buddhism Change Politics?
Republican Senators in downward facing dog. Democrat Chiefs of Staff sitting in meditation. Political journalists receiving a massage.
How might this change politics in the US if this were the norm?
The HuffPost Oasis seeks to change the landscape of politics by offering yoga, meditation, massage, and a space for folks to unplug at the Republican and Democratic National Conventions.
Arianna Huffington breaks down The Social and Political Implications of Downward-Facing Dog – what does yoga have to do with politics?
She makes two points: ones is that people who take time to care for themselves have more capacity to then care for the needs of others. I would love to live in a world where politicians saw themselves as stewards of our collective resources, and focused their attention on how to attend to the needs of others rather than their own needs to get re-elected.
Where Do We Intervene?
She also presents the research on chronic stress and generations of poverty. Poverty leads to chronic stress, and the constant presence of stress hormones in the body impacts a kid’s developing brain. As adults, their capacity for working memory is impaired, making it hard to remember phone numbers or vocabulary words.
“Stress is a vicious cycle, and intervention at any and every point will have multiplying benefits.”
I also often argue that we need interventions at all levels and at all points. Yet in our world of limited resources, we often have to choose where our energy will be most effective.
Do we intervene to reduce stress? Or to end poverty?
And do the interventions we propose work on the individual level or collective level?
For instance, either of these could be interventions to reduce stress:
- Encourage people to do more yoga, meditation, and have better eating and exercise habits
- Organize workers to demand fair wages and reasonable working hours (Happy Labor Day, y’all!)
As political Buddhists, do we have a leaning toward one of these interventions because it includes meditation? If we primarily focus on encouraging people to do more yoga and meditation for stress reduction, could this actually create a greater divide between those who have access to meditation and those who do not?
In addition to the Oasis, HuffPost also has a job creation initiative to focus on what is working to get people into jobs. They also host the Shadow Conventions, to highlight issues that politicians won’t be talking about during the conventions but should be, including entrenched poverty.
I was only planning to highlight the Oasis here, thinking that political Buddhists would be most interested in hearing about meditation and yoga at the conventions. Am I the only one who gets trapped thinking that political Buddhists are more interested in meditation than in labor organizing? Where else do you hope politically-minded Buddhists will expand our thinking to a systemic level? Please let me know in the comments if you are with me in wanting to explore more collective solutions to problems like chronic stress and poverty!