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Empowerment Loss

Empowerment Loss

I first registered to vote when I was a freshman in college. I remember when I was filling out the form and had to choose a party affiliation. I felt the broader political systemE did not represent my interests and chose: Independent. Last month, for the first time since, I changed my party affiliation so I could vote in the upcoming primary. Only to discover that, in fact, the deadline for changing party affiliation in this year’s NY primaries was in October. Strange, given that the deadline to register was March 25, I wonder why it’s possible to process a registration from scratch in time for the elections in April but not possible to change my party affiliation?

This is only a small example of how we easily become disenfranchised. It’s hard to understand why we do not hold elections on the weekends when people are off work or allow citizens to cast their votes online. None of us are surprised by blatant power grabs anymore. We have become so desensitized to marketers and PR agents playing fast and loose with our emotions that it’s often just easier to resign and give in than resist and feel helpless in the face of the onslaught.

More than the outcomes of our political uncertainty, the ugliness of the process and the seeming breakdown of civilized behavior, the imbalance of justice and lack of any offset on greed have reached new levels that are hard to accept. To do so makes me feel hopeless.

It’s terrible the way everything seems rigged. And I say that with optimism, as if there is even a possibility that things are otherwise. Maybe seeing things as rigged is cynical. But it doesn’t matter what side of the aisle you look at, the influence and ruthlessness of establishment political power is on full and transparent display. Whether it’s the chickens coming home to roost on the right or the stunning bias and disinformation on the left, there is simply no doubt that money is ruling the day. What’s worse is how deft that aberrated power is at manipulating people and causing harm for financial and political gain.

More than any other time in my adult life, it seems that my country's mores are off the rails and I feel genuinely scared. Watching the last edifice of our political process devolve completely into nothing more than a playground for the very rich has sealed the deal on an armageddon-style collapse of any shared sense of security and trust in our financial system and government. While there is no doubt that I sense much less of an immediate danger than eight years ago, there are also so many new developments that have me once again baffled by the disparity of perception that exists between humans. The current landscape is surreal to the point of paralysis.

Will the pressures of life and politics take away my sense of self?

I’ve always tried to keep politics out of my yoga. But lately, that feels impossible. You see, I have felt unexpectedly tired. Just drained. In assessing why, I became aware of the amount of energy that I am expending in order to avoid taking in what is happening in my country and the world. In my immediate sphere, no one is really talking about it. Sure, there are facebook posts with links to this article or that, or a funny picture or video but, at least among my friends and the people coming to the center, no one has much to say and my sense is that a lot of us would really prefer not to know about the horrifying rhetoric and disheartening events that are taking place. Especially for the yoga-minded, where a disconnect between truth and reality often becomes so painfully obvious. As much as I’d like to separate them out, the politics of the country in which I reside has an affect on my mindset and sense of well-being.

Fortunately, if there is one thing that I have gotten from yoga practice it’s an amount of faith that life is inherently benign. Certainly harder to assert when there is so much evidence to the contrary. But when all's said and done, despite the fear and pain, the wonder remains. Our lives are playing out regardless of the absurdity of our politics. And there is much more to our experience to be had, so much untouchable love and joy. For a moment, let’s just remember how amazing it is that we even exist. The angst of human frailty falls away when the truth of our own divinity is embraced. Perhaps from there, where the wolves are held at bay, may we proceed.


By J. Brown

J. Brown is a yoga teacher, writer and founder of Abhyasa Yoga Center in Brooklyn, NY.  His writing has been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, and across the yoga blogosphere.  Visit his website at




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