In this election season, a yoga studio is encouraging patrons to get off the mat and into citizen activism. On Saturday, Wanderlust Hollywood is hosting “Mindful America: Creating a Mindful Policy For a Healthy, Prosperous America.”
The six experts on the panel will pose answers to a provocative question: How can the personal practices of mindful living — living sustainably, buying organically and cultivating personal spirituality — be applied to public issues such as healthcare, energy and incarceration?
The event, a first for the studio, is an outgrowth of the Speakeasy lecture series held at Wanderlust festivals, which are retreats held worldwide featuring prominent writers, musicians, business leaders and health and yoga experts.
Williamson spoke to The Times about the role that mindful living can play in public policy and politics.
Why is the yoga-practicing audience important to civic matters?
Through my books and my own run for Congress, I have stressed what is to me an important connection between personal and global transformation. The people who are involved in personal growth, spiritual consciousness, recovery and so forth are the last people who should be sitting out the great social and political questions of our time. If you have a clue as to what changes one life, then you are the one with a clue as to what would change the world.
Today’s political and social discourse often is ruled by speech to create fear. Can mindfulness or spirituality help keep us levelheaded or more rational?
It’s not just how do we stay calm … but [how are we] taking personal responsibility for how we let this happen. Americans are barraged with meaningless stimuli, the kind that passes for popular culture. Each of us has to take personal responsibility for how we have conspired with the meaningless. We should be articulating adult, meaningful principles — love, tolerance and pluralism. If you have a Facebook or Twitter page or go out to dinner, you have a platform.
And also, what do we expect from a society that has basically ripped civics courses out of education? If children are not brought up knowing what the Bill of Rights is, why should we be surprised when someone rips it up with every speech?
Some wellness practitioners suggest ridding our lives of all that is toxic — and they include the media and politics in that category. How does this town hall discussion aim to address that issue?
There is a difference between transcendence and denial. You don’t need a faux spiritual excuse to not be involved. Many of us have seen that the caricature and stereotype applies to some, but not to all.
Wake up. Watch less meaningless television. Spend fewer meaningless hours on the Internet. Know that real activism has to go beyond signing online petitions or shouting on Facebook.
One of your co-panelists at the Wanderlust town hall is Congressman Ryan, who wrote a book about using mindfulness to improve public policy. Did you ever think you’d see the day when a Washington politician would be able to associate himself with meditation or, for that matter, anything but mainstream practices?
I grew up at a time when Bobby Kennedy was saying this is not just a fight for the politics of America, but for the soul of America. JFK said it would be our spiritual contribution that would be remembered the most. Martin Luther King’s entire conversation was within a spiritual context. So this [avoidance] is the aberration. One of the worst things that happened to progressive America … is that it was no longer talking about morality.
“Mindful America” takes place 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 30 at Wanderlust Hollywood, 1357 Highland Ave. Tickets are $39.50 and available on Eventbrite