About two years ago I was waking up every morning and immediately hopping on Facebook only to find myself wrapped up in vitriolic comment wars and jabs from both the left and right.
It was fine.
Narrator: It was not fine.
In my six years of actively speaking out in favor of peace and freedom, I’ve encountered a lot of colorful perspectives and trolls. Some are convinced I’m part of the “Jew World Order,” working as a Jewish trickster to horde shekels for myself and maintain the Rothschild globalist cabal (or something). Others are certain I’m just a flaming libtard craving socialism while still others would bet their lives I’m a right-wing nut job hellbent on figuratively (or literally) murdering the poor.
The negativity started to get to me, and I most definitely lashed out at more than a few hecklers.
Many of my new readers on Steemit (btw, hi!) have moved past the two-party paradigm, as well as statism as a whole. Unfortunately, it can be a wildly maddening ordeal to continually see people stuck in the matrix mindset — especially when they try to indignantly lecture you.
But as frustrated as some of us may be, imagine how much more extreme this agitation is for someone whose emotions are still extremely manipulated by propagandistic institutions that largely rule over them using fear and hatred, goading them into believing they must secure control over a violent institution in order to feel safe or powerful.
When politicians and media outlets aren’t sowing negativity and stoking anxiety during election seasons, they are poisoning the worldviews of those who still view them as authority figures with constant claims of war – on cops, women, healthcare, Christmas, you name it. In the mainstream political world, the country appears to be in perpetual in conflict, and that’s to say nothing of the actual wars the population is funding and their constant fear of terrorism and mass destruction.
This polarization and contempt makes the most philosophical sense in the context of America’s involuntary constitutional system. As Lysander Spooner wrote of voting in No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority in 1890:
“[The voter] sees, too, that other men practice this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he maybe become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defense, he attempts the former.”
Everyone fears their rights will be usurped and their freedoms abused, so they engage in an abusive system to secure control of it. Is it really surprising so many people are angry and hateful with paranoia?
The State thrives off this division as it continually encourages individuals to focus their dissatisfaction on their fellow humans as opposed to the power structures that are actually making their lives harder.
Experience has taught me that adding more negativity to this cesspool isn’t going to do much to challenge the system.
That’s where the yoga and meditation come in. At least for me.
I’ve tried screaming at people on social media. I’ve called them stupid, ignorant, authoritarian peasants. But it left them feeling attacked and insulted and me feeling smug for a short while, only to be embarrassed upon realizing how many silent social media observers might have witnessed my reactive tantrum.
I eventually realized I was lacking compassion because, as @larkenrose brilliantly points out in his seminar, “Candles in the Dark” (which he’ll be presenting at Anarchapulco next month!), those who believe in established paradigms are victims of institutional programming. They are conditioned to believe in the false virtues of war, oppression, and power through violence. As immoral as these things they be, most people who support them are actually acting with good intentions.
Compassion is vital because it is woefully absent in government, whether in the form of agents of the state who murder innocent people or in the form of citizens who rationalize such behavior.
Seeing others as human and recognizing their inherent goodness (outside of sociopaths, of course) has completely changed my approach and allowed me to achieve far more constructive dialogue with others who disagree with me. But i couldn’t have done it without first cultivating compassion, love, and patience for myself so I could in turn offer it to others.
Though they don’t carry the same tangible weight as, say, cryptocurrency, yoga and meditation can undermine the negative emotions that feed the constant discord among humans and, as a result, the cycle of statism.
Yoga and meditation are constant practices in gentleness, self-care, and consequently, compassion.
While many “workouts” urge participants to push themselves as hard as possible, physical yoga practices encourage the opposite. Whether it’s an active power yoga class or a deep stretch yin practice, the goal is never to push past a boundary. Rather, in yoga, it pays to accept where you are and let your body be, letting go of expectations and preconceived standards. Allowing your body to be as it is is an act of compassion toward yourself.
Meditation can also have a similar effect, though it took me until just a few months ago to recognize it. Often, meditation is perceived as silencing the mind. But with that mentality, if you have trouble doing so (me!), a session can feel like a failure and prompt even more frustration and irritability. What I’ve learned is that meditation (at least for me, because there is no one “right” way to do it) is a lot more satisfying if I simply try to notice when I’m having a thought (or 100) — and when I notice that thought, to remind myself that it’s okay. “Of course your mind is busy, you have a lot going on!” works a lot better than “What the f*ck is wrong with you, you neurotic slug!” The same gentle approach toward quieting the mind applies to yoga since its core foundation is attention to the breath and using body movement to help zero in on it.
(If you’re interested some amazing and brief introductory meditations that can help you develop compassion and love for yourself and move away from feeding judgment and contempt, check out these -- one is featured just below, and many focus on the broader goal of emotional healing).
In learning to have more patience and presence with myself – body, mind, and spirit – I’ve found it’s a lot easier to be less reactive to those who remain locked into emotional, partisan mentalities. This doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated and wildly irritated at statist trolls, but it does increasingly mean that I’m present to my reactivity and can pause, breathe, and collect myself before spewing insults in response to them. Having compassion for myself also makes it easier to have compassion for others, bypassing opinions I disagree with to find potential in their humanity.
I’ve experienced far more civil dialogue, engagement, and human connection, and in my opinion, this does far more for spreading the message of freedom than talking down to people, which often only drives them away from the views I’m trying to spread.
Even if cultivating compassion isn’t where you’re at at this point (believe me, I understand how difficult it is to feel a human connection with raging statists), yoga and meditation also serve a more general purpose: they can help reduce stress and ease anxiety and depression, especially as anarchists in a statist world.
While I may have liberated myself from the destructive religion of statism years ago, in truth, my emotional well-being lagged behind, which left me tragically shackled in spirit despite my rational, philosophical understanding of “freedom.” As Albert Camus wrote, “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”
Yoga and meditation do just that for me.
Mounting research is beginning to show that both practices can help ease anxiety and cultivate a sense of well-being. Meditation can also be useful for softening anger while yoga is deeply relaxing and healing for the muscles, which often carry tension from emotional stress (next time you get into a political conversation or even an argument in your personal life, notice how your shoulders, jaw, or brow scrunch up). If nothing else, yoga and meditation serve as tools for self-care, and since we all own our bodies, what could be more beneficial than removing stress from them?
In truth, just because we can learn communicate in a kinder way with statists (and others in general) doesn’t mean they will respond in kind. Hell, even most liberal members of the “spiritual” community here in Los Angeles have waxed hysterically hateful in the age of Donald Trump.
But even if these efforts are lost on others, practicing yoga, meditation, and self-compassion allows us to take our well-being and happiness into our own hands, further removing us from the stale mentality that we need the government to secure our happiness.
Whether we use meditation as a means to foster peaceful communication with others, to live in peace, or simply to counter the immense stress, frustration, and loneliness that can come from living outside the machine’s mentality, yoga and meditation are potentially potent tools to combat statism and create a better world.
Cheers to finding internal freedom as we work toward it in the outer world!
If you’re interested in getting into yoga, here are some great intro classes:
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about getting started!
For meditation, I recommend Insight Timer, a free app with thousands of meditations on different topics, from basic breathing to childhood trauma.
If you’re interested in how yogic philosophy lines up with anarchism, check out my speech at Anarchapulco in 2016. I’ll be discussing a similar topic this year, but will expand it to delve more into the need for inner emotional healing to empower free societies.