The campaign to elect the 45th President of the United States will go down as one of the strangest – and perhaps most uncivilized – in the history of the country. As we approach
the first debate on September 26, one organization aims to bring maturity and reason back to the process, all in the name of restoring what it is truly meant to be about — the good of the people. And it’s doing so through the yogic principle of mindfulness: staying centered in the midst of the stressful and chaotic circumstances where we too often find ourselves.
“Change begins with people,” is the message of CTZNWELL, a nonprofit seeking to mobilize wellness practitioners and activists to champion the right of all to lead healthy lives in both mind and body.
“CTZNWELL is mobilizing communities through personal practice, community building, and collective action to transform ourselves and restructure our world to support the conditions of well being for all,” says Yoga Instructor and activist Kate Werning.
“We train and support leaders across the country in building collective power and taking action on the issues that are important to them. We also organize national campaigns to leverage the power and potential of this community –including around issues such as raising the minimum wage, food system reform, getting money out of politics, and political engagement and voting from our values.”
To that end, CTZNWELL has spawned voteWELL, a nonpartisan campaign and a “demonstration of the collective power of courage and compassion.”
On behalf of the cause, Kate is organizing a Mindful Debate Party on September 26 at
Hub Seventeen to observe the first-ever face-off between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“The Mindful Debate party will be a space to engage, to practice staying centered and open in the face of divisive rhetoric, and to stand with strength for a world of well being for all.”
The event will begin at 8pm with wine, beer, sparkling water and snacks, followed by a talk about how the mindful among us can make a positive difference in the community as it prepares to make this momentous decision. Finally the debate itself will be viewed and then discussed in a supportive environment.
“We are also hosting a sister #MindfulDebate party that night in LA, and dozens of satellite small parties happening in peoples’ homes across the country,” says Kate. “We will be connecting over social media with them throughout the night, and live streaming the flagship party in NYC as well so people across the country can ‘join us.’”
The event will provide resource sheets for teachers to make announcements in their classes about the overall voteWELL campaign. “And practice using their voice in a way that is brave,” says Amy, “and engages students but doesn’t alienate. Participants will gain the tools to go back to their own spaces of practice to organize their own voteWELL events and efforts leading up to November.”
Amy is excited to gain resources from the event to share with the Bend and Bloom community. “For me, yoga is about interdependence,” she says. “That is, our own well being can not be separated from the suffering of others. So our practice and the daily choices we make are, ultimately, political choices.”
Erica Mather, Forrest yoga instructor and a familiar name in the NYC yoga community, is also on the voteWELL team. "As a teacher, I have a social responsibility to positively impact the lives of people around me,” she says. “If I can empower my students to do the same, the work will reverberate out to the larger community."
Amy suggests that despite being fiercely passionate about the election, few yoga and health practitioners have thus far had an outlet to channel their energies into. “VoteWELL is an effort to amplify the power of the millions of wellness practitioners in the US, by encouraging each other to vote our values and exercise our collective power for meaningful social change,” she says. “Wellness practitioners can be a powerful political force of mindful, informed and engaged voters, who can help bring about systemic shifts toward the conditions of well being for all people.”
The Mindful Debate will also prepare participants to organize “Vote Together Circles” in their local yoga studios, meditation centers or community spaces in the weeks leading up to November 8th. The Circles will attempt to maintain awareness that there is more than just the presidency that needs our attention.
“The Circles will be an opportunity to review down ballot races together (such as City Council, State Assembly, and Supreme Court Judges) that get far less attention than the Presidential race,” explains Amy. “These local races have tremendous impact on our communities' well being, through living wage laws, affordable housing programs, small business support and resources for immigrant communities. Yet they are often ignored. The aim is to look at these races carefully through the lens of our values as wellness practitioners.”
As the voteWell organizers say, “Practice Makes Politics.”