An excellent day to me is wearing shorts and flip-flops after a wonderful yoga practice. Call me easy to please but it's the small things that make my day: fresh juice, a walk with my dog, nice weather. I chuckle at myself, inventorying the changes of who I am now from when I was a New York lawyer, and then I wonder, is this my yoga working?
Anytime the well of gratitude arises, I answer, yes. I am grateful for the things I have and have become as a continual work in progress. These conscious living moments put things in perspective. For instance, the bare fact that my education, and the benefits that accompany it: career, transportation, security, independence, freedom, came by having an intangible fairy godmother: financial credit. I am what lending institutions label "credit worthy" and credit worthiness ran through the family. My parents had credit to buy our home and cars, which made it easier to clothe, feed and put my sister and me through school. Without credit, little of the security and health I experience would ever be possible.
That institution of credit has been at risk since the financial collapse of 2008. Yet still the profit-mongering, transaction facilitating and synthetic designing of financial products remains. Wall Street and political policies continue to weaken all but the richest members of society. Long-term investing by the people has been usurped by a market of sophisticated movers and quantitative trading algorithms. We've lost our credit rating as a country and we need sustainable political change for the future or we risk reversing into corporate servitude. And yet, despite the incredible failures of the U.S. and European banking systems, there still remains credit in the U.S. to buy cars and houses, finance educations and charge purchases.
This is not to say a weakened system is better than no system. But many people in the world have zero access to credit. Their parents have no access, their government gives no access and institutions lend no money to them. The only capital and collateral they have is sweat equity, of which community loan sharks take full advantage. With no one to invest in them, opportunities narrow by a large margin. Under financial oppression, in any country, there is little chance for growth and many opportunities for sliding further into poverty.
2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Muhammad Yunus understood this. His work helped fortify micro financing as a means to help impoverished people become credit worthy so that through their own efforts they can rise out of poverty. Sounds like Dr. Yunus' yoga is working.
In 2007, Kayoko Mitsumatsu, a documentary filmmaker, took the initiative to start Yoga Gives Back, a non-profit to raise awareness and funds for microfinancing in India, a place she felt deeply grateful to for discovering and nurturing yoga for thousands of years. After five years in operation, Yoga Gives Back supports 103 women and children in India. Donations are used as micro loans toward the woman's business or support for the child's education to help build sustainable livelihoods. Sounds like her yoga is working.
On September 29th, Yoga Gives Back volunteers and ambassadors, yoga studios and yoga students from around the world will take part in one-day event called Thank You Mother India, a day of donation classes to raise money for women and children so that they may lift themselves out of poverty. Thank You Mother India's one-day of fundraising equals a years worth of poverty fighting support for many. Sounds like these volunteers' yoga is working.
Yoga is not simply a class but can be a transformative lifestyle and set of values to quiet the mind, find a new paragon of health, become more respectful of the environment, all without requiring a yoga mat. Let me explain before beginning yoga's physical postures, or asanas, the yoga sutras or teachings, call to respect two ethical precepts: the yamas and niyamas. The yamas are precepts of social discipline and the niyamas are precepts of individual discipline. They teach truthfulness, non-violence, abstention from greed, contentment, to name a few.
As the political conventions played out, I took a good look at the people in the audience. I awed at the faces that didn't mirror the greed and grime of institutions but of people who get out and support democracy. They don't do this for political power or graft, they do it for a country that has been incredibly successful despite its many failings and problems. I bet their yoga is working.
Neither of the conventions spoke about poverty in the United States. In trying to save the middle class, we've totally forgotten about the many people who since the financial collapse are sliding further into poverty. Social programs are viewed as a negative while banks make billion dollar bets. Does anyone believe we can risk our financial and political system any more by not having proper oversight and proper laws to curb the thirst for greed?
Mitt Romney's answer to today's young entrepreneur is to "borrow from your parents". These "parents" are either incredibly supportive or they are beyond the need for credit. Suggestions like this create a two-fold risk: having someone in the White House who doesn't appreciate the sincere struggles of U.S. citizens and having someone lead the country who doesn't appreciate what it's like to live without access to credit. I wonder if his yoga is working.