Tag Archives: politics

A Tale of Two Solitudes

Our province is shaken. Our country is shaken. Quebec’s provincial election took place yesterday, and no political party emerged victorious. The Parti Québecois ended up with a minority government, the Liberals lost their 9-year stronghold on the province, the newly formed Coalition Avenir Québec won far fewer seats than predicted, and Québec Solidaire added one more seat to their existing one. No one feels good with any of these election results, but the people of my beautiful city and province are hurting more than any of their “leaders.”

This election saw its leaders use fear-mongering as campaign tools, especially Pauline Marois, the PQ leader. She spouted a pretty blatant disregard for anyone living in or coming to live in the province who isn’t French-born. Under the guise of protecting the French language, she succeeded in dividing people. English vs. French, Québecois vs. Canadian, me vs. you. She wasn’t the only one. Almost all the leaders degraded themselves and insulted their electors by using fear to sway votes. This behaviour is unacceptable, and the election results show that no one emerged as a true leader. No one emerged as the face that we, the people, want to represent us. We ended up the lesser of many evils, and evils they are. But despite what the leaders think of us, we’re not stupid.

After the results had come in, a man came to where Pauline Marois’ was giving her victory speech and shot two people, then set fire to a dumpster just outside of the building. He was anglophone, yelling that “the anglos are waking up”. The man was believed to be mentally unstable. We are not. Let’s not forget that.

I was absolutely not surprised that this anger was directed at Pauline Marois and the PQ. Don’t misinterpret what I’m writing: I do not condone this type of behaviour. Violence and hatred beget violence and hatred. I have no interest in seeing people’s opinions rise up in anger fuelled by hatred. I do, however, think that what happened last night was to be expected: Pauline Marois, love her or hate her, is divisive. She was throughout her campaign, and will continue to be throughout her time as Premiere of Québec. She would like to separate English from French, Québec-born from immigrants, Québec from Canada. This is not my opinion that I’m spouting, this is and always has been her agenda. When a leader spouts disdain and dislike towards any group of people, there is bound to be an equal or greater reaction. Last night’s attack was a reaction. A badly thought-out (if thought-out at all) one.

I refuse to let this shooter speak for me, an English-speaking Québecois. I spend my life trying to bring people together, and when I see people in power working against that, trying to separate us, I get fuelled up to work even harder to diffuse any divisive behaviour. Pauline Marois may not even realize how damaging her division tactics are proving to be, but regardless of who we voted for, regardless of whether or not we believe in Québec as a sovereign nation, regardless of whether or not we speak English or French, we all know one thing: we are stronger together. There will always be troublemakers stirring it up. There will always be a shooter. There always has been and there always will be. The character of a group of people will never be defined by one person, it will be defined by the masses. The shooter last night is not us. Stop buying into what these political parties want you to believe. We are not English or French, we are not federalists or separatists, we are not Liberals, Péquistes or Caquistes. We are Québecois. We are human. We all want freedom and security. All of us. The true show of character will be in how we react to what happened yesterday. We need to be responsible in our reaction. Let’s not add fuel to the fire and allow the chasm between us to continue to grow. We are stronger together. We need each other, because if we continue to allow ourselves to be separated, then the politicians win. I will not allow any politician to act in any hurtful or divisive way and pretend to be speaking for me. I have my own voice, as do my friends. I know that when I hang out with my friends, I am hanging out with all different political views and languages, but regardless of all that, we love each other. I love this city. I love this province. I will not let things get out of control. Stop pointing the finger of blame at someone else and re-direct it to yourself. If this becomes a state of emergency, it’s because we let it happen. We have the choice as to how this plays out. We are either together or we’re not. I vote for together. I always have, and I always will. What are you voting for?

Is Freedom An Endangered Concept?

At the beginning of many yoga classes I’ve taken, the mantra seen above has been chanted, and occasionally even been focused on as the theme for the class. This chant calling for the happiness and freedom of all beings is not simply a channeling and projection of good intentions, it’s a call to personal responsibility. It galvanizes and empowers us to take accountability for other beings by ensuring that everything we think, do and say is done with the aim of creating our own personal happiness and freedom. Sounds simple enough, one would think. However, throughout the past weeks and months, with the American election campaigns in full swing (pun fully intended), as well as the election here in Quebec and the reports coming out of Syria and Russia, I have been seriously mulling over what freedom really is, and how its meaning might differ from one person to the next.

I’m not a particularly political person. I’ve rarely followed any political party very closely in the past, but the rise in global intolerance seems undeniable these days, an intolerance reflected in the heads of political parties that somehow rise to power. The greater the intolerance, the less freedom people have. The two may be inversely proportional, but they’re co-dependent. There is no freedom without repression. We wouldn’t even have to discuss the concept of freedom if mankind wasn’t power-hungry and ego-driven enough to feel compelled to strip away the options and opportunities available from those they feel superior to. Every history book in existence tells of those who, in their blind pursuit to sate their hunger for control, have inflicted the most horrible and unspeakable of atrocities onto their quarries because of the threat they felt was posed to them. Repression has always existed, and judging by the snail-like pace that mankind is evolving at, it always will.

American Republicans include the withdrawal of women’s, gay, and minority rights on their current campaign platforms, and for some reason, even with the direct threat to those freedoms, they still garner a huge number of supporters. Despite the US being the “land of the free and the home of the brave”, Republicans obviously feel that they should instead adopt the political slogan “land of the racist, misogynistic, classist, and homophobic, and home of the ignorant.” Not bad for a nation with 1 in 5 people living in poverty and Caucasians now in the minority.

Our own not-for-much-longer premier of Quebec introduced legislation this year, Bill 78, essentially prohibiting our population from taking to the streets in an impromptu fashion to voice our discontent over how we felt our democratically elected leaders were managing our province. The freedom to come together and communicate dissension had conditions imposed on it, regardless of the fact that the bill itself was a farce and will prove next week in the provincial election to be the Liberal Party’s demise. And now, Russia’s government has pretty much banned homosexuality from existing (have Mr. Putin and Mr. Ahmadinejad started hanging out?), even going so far as to prohibit Russian Gay Pride Parades for the next 100 years. Countless other threats to what I have always believed freedom to stand for exist in every single village/town/city/province/state/country/continent on the globe. They always have, and they always will. That’s what I believe we are working against in the pursuit of so-called freedom.

Let’s now look at those of us in materialistic, industrialized nations. Our children have grown up, for the most part, unaware that the options available to them are the direct result of others who came before them having fought and died in the name of freedom. With them not knowing that only white, Christian, heterosexual men can breathe a sigh of relief with the bulk of history on their side, they stand to lose their own freedoms. People constantly speak about freedom as something to defend, as a basic right, but what are they really referring to? Are they speaking about the right for every single person to voice their dissatisfaction with something? How about the right to carry a gun around and use it? Or maybe what they’re talking about is the right to judge others and strip them of their dignity and livelihood? It’s unfortunate to say, but I believe on many levels that freedom for all isn’t what’s being coveted by the masses – people want the freedom to protect what they believe they are entitled to – they want security at the expense of freedom. Security to make and keep their money, security to sit at home and play video games while the rest of the world fights senseless wars, security to protect their families from the same people their attitudes are repressing.

As an innately empathetic person, and as a teacher of yoga and spirituality, I make it my responsibility to embody the essence of other beings. Yoga has us take poses named after dogs, trees, cats, lightning bolts, and so much more, all for a reason – as crazy as it may sound, to visualize adopting the energy of another being allows us to see how we as humans are simply one drop in the ocean. It shows us that it’s not all about us. It reminds us that the only threat to mankind is mankind itself. We are responsible for destroying our planet. We are responsible for allowing atrocities to take place all over the world. We are responsible for the misinterpretation of freedom and how that misinterpretation allows our leaders to forget that they’re supposed to work for us, not against us. We need to fight for our own freedom without forgetting about peace, to voice our opposition against anyone who tells us that one person is better than another or that what one person believes is more valid than the beliefs of another, and we need to teach our children that the fight existed before them, and will continue throughout their lifetime. Incorporating non-violence is essential, even against those who would beat us down, but we have a responsibility to stand up for. It’s in doing that that we fulfill our responsibility towards the freedom and happiness of all others.

And so with all that said, I ask you: what is freedom according to you? Knowing that the political pendulum swings from the right to the left and back to the right every couple of decades, do you really believe that freedom is available to all of us? Should it be? Do you feel free in your own lives? If not, why? Let me know, because in doing so, you’re letting everyone know, and we are all sharing the exact same experiences, but simply don’t feel free to enough to share. It starts with us.

The Heart’s Memory

I’ve recently found myself getting involved in some pretty thought-provoking discussions with friends about the state of the world. From politics to religion, from daily dramas to life and death, it seems like there is a common undercurrent of negativity that we are being fed, and given the right company and circumstances, it erupts forth and instigates a healthy dose of communication and debate.

The subjects that seem to get the conversation close to a boiling point always seem to be the same: the apparent (and seemingly inescapable) descent into the realm of complete bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and general insanity from the American Republican candidates…the utter ineptitude of the Canadian population (excluding the province of Quebec) that somehow allowed the egomaniacal lunacy of Stephen Harper to not only be elected, but to be rewarded with a majority government…the mounting tension between Iran and Israel and the countries that support each of them on their way to some sort of conflict…the state of the European economy…the state of the global economy…what separates those who are immensely wealthy from those who seemingly run after the dangling carrot of economic security. This is but a cross-section of a typical evening’s list of topics, and from the point of view of those I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with, these topics are enough to get us all sitting on the edge of our seats in anticipation of the next topic to be thrown into the arena. Throughout all the face time we’ve shared, it’s a true sense of disbelief that we end up walking away with…disbelief that we, as a race of beings, have become so polarized from logic and compassion that we now find ourselves feeling helpless as the age of stupidity drags us even further away from advancement and evolution.

In a yoga workshop last weekend with Dechen Thurman, he talked briefly about how we used to value intelligence, and how we sometimes valued it enough to elect those blessed with it to positions of leadership. He followed up on that by saying that instead of electing people based on their intelligence, we now elect people based on how they make us feel. Rarely have I been exposed to such a succinct summation of where we find ourselves as humans, and with that in mind, in keeping with connecting to how we feel, I’d like to propose the solution to dealing with a propaganda-based, media-driven world of negativity: gratitude.

In the yogic teachings, we learn yogaś-citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ , that Yoga or  state of Union, is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. This cessation insinuates that we hone in on one thing as opposed to allowing the mind and our awareness to be ricocheted around like a pinball, and it’s through this honing that we gradually become aware of the veil of illusion we live behind. This veil keeps us ignorant of our true nature as beings of love and compassion, stemming from the source of all that exists. As long as we allow ourselves to stay behind the veil, we validate the daily dramas that we tend to obsess over and appoint them as a source of importance to be revered and fed. These dramas are simply a trick, something to keep us distracted, focused on the obvious when our nature is to seek out the fleeting nature of the essence hidden behind the obvious. From my point of view, the media outlets reporting on the topics that keep us all flabbergasted at the state of the world are simply feeding us fluctuations….of the collective mind. We are being thrown curve balls at every minute, and instead of trying to catch them all, we should instead focus on that which renders the distractions insignificant. We need to find gratitude. We need to take note of every seemingly innocuous detail of our lives to see where we can find blessings, and then emanate gratitude for them.

You want to know mine? Here goes: I’m grateful for this body that allows me to practice yoga and tap into the essence of the people and events around me. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for my friends. I’m grateful for the people who support and love me and who allow me to support and love them back. I’m grateful to live in a country where I can have in-depth discussions with people without having to watch what I say for fear of being imprisoned for expressing myself. I’m grateful to be able to sleep at night. I’m grateful to the people who live their truths and inspire me daily to do the same. I’m grateful that my words reach people and occasionally make a difference in their lives. I’m grateful to be able to travel. I’m grateful to be able to meld my passions with my career. I’m grateful for the roof over my head, the clothes on my back, and the knowledge that no matter where my path takes me, I’m taken care of. It’s through gratitude that we tap into the heart’s memory, and in one fell swoop, we draw the veil of illusion aside and can see the permanence that informs every single one of us.

We have a responsibility to each other to never take anything at face value, to seek out the truth behind the distractions. The portal to that process is gratitude. Feel it in every moment possible, and see how it changes you. Tap into your heart’s memory.