Is it just me, or do you feel angry or helpless about the fractured political climate of America?

Whether it’s CNN’s reporters being heckled by those encouraged to hate our free press, Nia Wilson’s senseless murder, or asylum seeking children torn from their parents and put in detention centers - the worst of humanity is rearing its ugly head.

In the face of this polarization and hatred, I’ve concluded that as yogis we have two actions of recourse:

1. Be a Model Human  - Be a Bit More Like Shiva

One of the main goals of a yoga practice is to understand ourselves and work on who we are through self inquiry so that we can give back in a more profound way to the world.

But how do we do this in the face of hatred and continual bad news that won’t stop? We can withdraw and put our heads in the sand, or we can face it all head on.

The teachings from the Hindu deity, Shiva might help.

Shiva is a whole lot of things.

Notably, Shiva is the lord of toxins. Because, well, he is everything and he is consciousness itself.

His connectivity to every possible outcome is his ferocity - Shiva as Bhairava. He shrinks from nothing, and is unafraid to imbibe the poison of the world and hold it in his throat so as not to assimilate it.

He engages everything.
He is utterly himself.
And he doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks of him.

We’ve all experienced strong emotions or challenges that we want to run from.

Shiva enters our yoga practice when we do the things that push our buttons and look to challenging experiences with the question:

“Who am I in this?”

This is the easiest question to ignore when our experience is provocative, scary, or unpleasant.

When you ignore this question, you let your emotions rule you instead of being sovereign to your emotions.

And when your emotions run you, you're likely to act less like a model human, and more  arrogant and entitled - i.e. someone that people don't particularly want to be around.

Think about the asanas or poses that challenge you -- like arm balances or backbends. If you avoid them or don’t check in on your resistances around them, you won’t progress in your practice.

Emotions are similar and must be engaged. For example, anger can cause stress, acting out, or even violence - but those things are not the anger itself - those things are you on autopilot when your anger has gone unchecked.

Being a model human in the face of challenge and emotions means choosing to become your emotions fully. Then you can decide what to do about them and how to respond.

Shiva is present when you let yourself have your experiences completely and then choose the best course of action. Now instead of running amok, your emotions can compel, forgive, heal, shift, or inspire.

I’ve never regretted acting from a place of self-awareness in my emotions, and I’ve never regretted apologizing for being irritable or un-thoughtful to those around me when I’ve miss-stepped.

2. Vote

Modeling the best of human behavior in ourselves is one thing we can do individually to respond to divisiveness, but ultimately change has to come from the top.

Electing conscious policy and law makers is crucial to impacting change for the environment, for social equality, and peace in our communities and around the world.

In addition to checking ourselves and not succumbing to hatred and division, we’ve got to VOTE.

Four thoughts on this:

  1. Register to VOTE if you have not yet done so.
  2. Consistently check that your registration stays current all the way until the deadline to register - word is that people are being pulled from the voter rolls even if they were registered.
  3. Encourage other people to vote by joining organizing campaigns like Swing Left , Black Women Vote, and MoveOn.Org. Help drive people to the polls if you have to.
  4. The current administration is doing nothing to stop Russian hacking into our system, so we need to show up in such record-breaking numbers that no amount of meddling can make an impact.

Take these two actions and I guarantee you'll feel better about the state of the world and how you can make a difference toward the people around you.

What are you doing to stay conscious, kind, and aware in these intense times? Leave a comment below!