Alert, straight, hand over heart, gazing at the flag, I stood behind my desk every morning. This posture, with intention, was given by my teachers. At four years old it was my very first asana.
I recited our country’s mantra day after day for years. The Pledge of Allegiance.
Its purpose, to unite me with the land of my origin.
This year I’ve been thinking a lot about my first yoga experience as I get ready to cast my ballot. Perhaps it’s because for the first time I feel the underpinnings of the Pledge shifting. Away from its original attention of indivisibility to a place of discord.
Originally, the Pledge was composed by Colonel George Balch and later revised by a socialist minister Francis Bellamy as a response to the Civil War. The first version: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” did not contain the phrases “of the United States of America” or “Under God.” Those came later.
At some point in time, when I was in Middle School and questioning everything, I rebelled against saying the words “Under God.” This phrase was added after church officers and other religious promoters successfully lobbied President Eisenhower in the 1950s in response to the fear of Communism.
When Eisenhower added the phrase to the original pledge, he said “In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in American heritage and the future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our most powerful resource in peace or war.”
I no longer recite the Pledge, I read the Bhagavad Gita, the Yoga Sutras, the Ramayana.
Through all this studying there is a growing understanding that there are forces greater than our mortal selves.
These are the forces that created the great Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, that settled the Plains to allow graceful Prairie grasses to grow and that shifted to transform earth into the majestic Rockies. Forces beyond our control.
In this year of political strife, I feel it is important to reaffirm that there are forces within my control. That I have an allegiance to one nation, to our republic, a state in which power is held by the people through elected representatives. A country where a president is voted in - rather than being born into power like a monarch or seizing control like a dictator - where there is an essential and unequivocal equality between members of our society.
Where we cultivate liberty and justice; the state of being free and the qualities of honesty, righteousness and equipoise.
And, where our most important action is to vote.