Voting as Practice

photo by Karen Muktayani Villanueva

I recently had the experience of volunteering at both the 2012 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Tampa, FL and at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Charlotte, NC. My role was to teach those in attendance, that were interested in learning, meditation and yoga. Never in a million years would I have ever thought that I would do this. It was an interesting concept and it was an even more interesting experience.

The Huffington Post and Off the Mat, Into the World provided a venue and container to bring more mindfulness into the political process. I led small group classes and private instruction. I met some very interesting, influential, and powerful folks. I got to just glimpse a snapshot of a corner of the underpinnings of the political machine, hard at work.

I don’t really know if I did any good at all. (That sounds rather dramatic, I know.) And, it’s true. I put my best efforts forth in teaching and imparting instruction. By the time we were done, the folks that I taught were able to successfully demonstrate their understanding of the material I presented. We even exchanged email addresses, should they have questions after the conventions were over. I’ve even been in contact with a few since, and still, I don’t really know what the impact of my actions has been. And, I don’t know if I will ever know.

I realize this somewhat flies in the face of convention (no pun intended), especially in this age of deliverables and measurable outcomes. I’ve come to believe that over time, and having a sense of history, is the best way to know, for sure, if something we did matters or mattered at all. And, in this case, and perhaps with any merit that comes from deep practice, it is immeasurable.

These things I know:

  • Folks that I worked with were very grateful for the time we spent together, teaching and learning.
  • Folks that I worked with were very grateful for the space that was created for this kind of teaching and learning.
  • Even weeks after, folks that I worked with expressed gratitude for the experience that we all shared.
Despite this, I still maintain that I don’t know if any good has come from any of this. It is likely that there is some, even a lot, and I don’t think I will ever be sure just how much. And you know what? To me, it doesn’t really matter that I don’t know exactly how much good will come or has come.
What is most important to me is that there exists the very real possibility of “good” coming as a result from my actions, that my actions were done in such a way that they allow for a little more peace, a little more breath, a little more ease, a little more clarity, a little more awakening, a little more freedom to be experienced by all those involved. What matters most is that before all of those good things were less possible; after my actions, they are now more possible, and even a little bit more probable.
We never really know the impact of our actions, our good deeds–heck, even our bad deeds, for that matter. All we have are our intentions or thoughts manifesting as actions and reactions.

I remember as a wide-eyed 18-year-old voting for the very first time in the 1992 US Presidential Election. It was thrilling for me. As my birthday is in September, I was able to register in time to cast my vote. I remember feeling like I was doing something, really doing something. What “it” was, I still couldn’t really tell you. I knew that it was something bigger than myself. Yah, definitely (definitely) bigger than myself. I was a high school senior, an upperclassman, on the brink of  a new beginning.

That was 20 years ago now, and admittedly, I don’t feel as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about my impact on the world. The world has gotten much larger in 20 years or,  at least for me, more revealed. I have had my heart broken many times over, as I learn more how low humanity can, and does, sink. Sure, in the last 20 years, I can point to the heights, too, and it’s the depths that really get to me. Oh, okay, over the last 20 years, and especially with my deep practice in tow, I have seen how low I can go, and maybe that’s why it really feels so heartbreaking.

There is just so much to learn, so many ideas to explore. What are the alternatives to a two party system? What are the ways to eradicate voter suppression? How do we regularly sustain inclusive, meaningful political conversations without alienating or burning out? Truth be told, sometimes, my brain hurts just remembering how the electoral college works.

And, of this I am sure:

  • I am going to vote.
  • I am going to vote even though I don’t know the viable alternatives to a two-party system.
  • I am going to vote even though I don’t know all the ways to eradicate voter suppression.
  • I am going to vote even though I don’t know how to sustain regular, inclusive, and mindful political conversations when there isn’t a major election near or happening.
  • I am going to vote even though remembering how the electoral college works hurts my brain, sometimes.
  • I am going to vote because so many have died and suffered in the struggle to ensure that voting was even possible for someone like me.
  • I am going to vote even though I don’t know what good will come of it.
  • I am going to vote because I know in doing so, the possibility of good coming is more likely after having done so.

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