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Author Archives: Ben Lanin

A Story About Skiing, Habitual Response, Centering, and Developing Ease

A couple of weeks ago, I went skiing at Crested Butte for a couple of days. Crested Butte has a well-deserved reputation for having some very steep runs. I have the technique to ski these runs–I get down them safely. But I can’t do it without substantial struggle. I tend to get overwhelmed by fear and cut all my momentum after every turn, so I never find rhythm or flow. Too much of the time, it’s basically what we call "survival skiing." It gets frustrating, because I have the physical abilities to ski the run, but clearly something I do with my energy gets in the way.

Well, I’m pretty deeply devoted to this TTW stuff, so instead of just grinding through the frustration, or else giving up on skiing the steeps at all, I tried to figure out what was happening and what to do about it. So again and again and again I breathed deeply from center, connected my energy to ground, breathed my stress back into the Earth, and tried to witness what exactly was happening in my body and with my energy to make me struggle so consistently.

After enough attempts to step out of my patterns of stress and return to centered consciousness, I had a moment of insight. I discovered that when I find myself in that patterned fear response, it results from having cast my energy all the way to the bottom of the slope, essentially leaving my body to fend for itself. "I’ll meet you down here," my energy calls back up to me. Well, it’s hard to be more out-of-center than letting your energy get 50 or 100 yards away from you. And the result is that I struggle and struggle and struggle to ski the run.

I wish I could say that I fixed the problem with that awareness, but it doesn’t work that way. What I could do, however, is come back to center. I could bring my energy back to me, and then I could be present with the fear in a different way: I could just let it be, just feel it, instead of running from it. I found that rather than sending my energy down to the bottom of the slope and leaving my body to fend for itself, I could expand my energy outward from center to create a space of awareness able to contain my body, my fear, and my next couple of turns. For a few moments, I could release the old pattern like a balloon and watch it float away.

This sensation is what we mean by a state of ease. The things that get in the way go away, even if only for a moment, and I can just be in the present moment and allow it to flow, as is its true nature.

Of course, soon enough I’ll again fall out of center and return to my habitual unconscious state, and the easy experience of my old pattern will arise again. And that’s completely okay. This is a practice, not a destination.

So I keep practicing.

Easy vs. Ease

In my piece from a couple of weeks ago, I said something that, on further reflection, I felt to be mistaken. I wrote about the shift from a sense of shared social identity a few generations ago to the radical polarization we’re experiencing now, and said:

The shift happened naturally enough. It results from tendencies within us that aren’t even something to especially decry. One of the core tenets of TTW is the cultivation of a state of ease in all things that we do, and from that perspective it’s clear why people would choose to consume media produced by people who share a similar worldview: it’s far more comfortable. Who wants to choose the discomfort of constantly experiencing the dissonance of dealing with people whose worldview does not match your own? Instead, at our current level of energetic development, we seek the comfortable consonance of "This affirms what I already think."

As I thought about it later, I realized that I was confusing the state of ease we seek to cultivate through TTW practices like centering with that which is simply easy. They aren’t the same thing.

Easy often means a path of minimal resistance, usually relying on habit. Indeed, if there’s anything I have learned through the going-on-three years I’ve worked with Jerry, it’s that the easiest thing in the world is to stay embedded in your current habits and not change, no matter how strong the impetus. That is, in a sense, what habits are: a state requiring little or no energetic input to keep up. They are easy. This is the benefit, and the curse, of habits.

Ease, from a TTW perspective, is a differet thing entirely. When you practice centering and cultivate the state of flow it engenders, blocks to that flow reveal themselves. If, for example, your habit in times of stress is to tense up, tensing up is the easy thing to do, but it’s the very opposite of ease. Ease will result when you become aware of that tension and use a state of consciousness and flow to release it.

If we bring this concept back to the political realm, then we see that the current polarization of our discourse, driven by habitual patterns of thought and behavior, is extremely easy, but it is far, far from a state of ease. Indeed, we’re watching our system become more and more toxic, and no one seems to have slightest idea what to do about it. As I write this, the Senate is debating invoking the so-called "nuclear option" with respect to the confirmation of Supreme Court justices. Really consider what the analogy is there. We’re likening this shift to the decision to go to nuclear war. You tell me: energetically, is this going to invoke creative energy (ease), or destructive?

I’ve written off our government at this point. The toxicity runs so deep that the government is already in a state of collapse, and that collapse is accelerating. But I have been trying to imagine what a state of ease seeking to counter these destructive patterns might look like. I have started envisioning something like this: going up to someone whose political views differ completely from my own and shaking hands–a gesture of peace and respect–and then saying, "I don’t understand your point of view. Can you explain it to me?"

On Observation 7

Observation 7: To solve the overarching problem, we’re going to have to create a new way of engaging with each other both politically and personally. That means building on an understanding grounded in the flow of energy.

The foundation for creating a new way of engaging with each other begins with creating a new way of engaging with ourselves.

A general numbness to our lived experience is endemic among Americans. The evidence is so ubiquitous and so constant that it can be a challenge to even see it, because seeing it suggests that it could be different. One simple example: the proliferation of evidence that our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. What do you think drives the appeal of constant, insidious distraction?

We choose distraction because actually getting present to what’s happening in the moment feels more and more fraught, more and more dangerous. Conveniently, technology allows us to escape the present more and more effectively. Why be here, now in this moment, when there are so many easy and entertaining ways to be anywhere else?

What’s more: numbness is a functional way (of sorts) of getting through life. Numbness creates a certain stability, and most people get along fine(-ish) just stumbling numbly through life. (If it were otherwise, breakdown would be a far more common experience than it is.) Furthermore, if you’ve practiced numbness for long enough, the idea that it could be otherwise seems foreign, utterly disconnected from your own experience: This is just who I am. Isn’t it?

Except: A life lived in numbness obviates the possibility of truly thriving in your life. Something will feel unsatisfactory. You’ll find yourself struggling to earn money, or you’ll find yourself struggling to stay healthy, or you’ll find yourself struggling to find work that matters to you, or you’ll just simply find yourself unhappy and be unable to explain exactly why. Whatever the problem is, you’ll experience it as a persistent knocking, right at the threshold of liminality. You’ll probably do your best to ignore it.

A lack of thriving is so built into our society and our system that it’s simply seen as the way things are. It seems like crystal-gazing hippie-speak to suggest that it could be otherwise, much less that thriving could be as simple as making a choice to thrive and from there committing to a series of actions, all of which are available to literally anyone and entirely under your own control.

Well, nothing shatters the smooth, shiny veneer of complacency like crisis. In the early drafts for this piece, I wrote that crisis is coming. But that’s wrong. Crisis is already here.

Crisis is what explains Donald Trump. Out of crisis come opportunities for demagogues and hideous men, people who offer facile answers and the anodyne promise that the problem is wholly outside of you. They offer the sweet lullaby-like promise of victimhood. Someone somewhere did this to you.

The thrust toward populist demagoguery succeeds because it offers change without any demands on its supporters. It is the last gasp claim that the system is fixable, that the difference between functioning and not functioning depends on who is in charge.

Ultimately, this thrust will fail. It will fail because it is a lie. The problem is not outside of you. You are the problem. So am I.

So when this thrust blows itself out–as it must, because it is false–and when the damage it causes ultimately brings everything to a standstill–and it will–then finally our illusions will be seen for what they are. We’ll be forced to ask, "Now what?" What does one do from a bottom?

Here I speak from my own experience. The only thing that I’ve found that brought any lasting change was to learn to get very, very intimate with the present moment. From a close attention to the present moment, deeper truths begin to emerge. If you follow the truth for long enough, then … well, then what?

Imagine what happens when you let go of constant, numb struggle and discover that you are finally–finally!–beginning to thrive.

Proposition 6: You Are the Problem. And So Am I.

(No, this was not one of the original six observations/propositions. But in trying to follow the logic from O/P5: ("Hyper-partisanship is leading inexorably to the collapse of the current system.") to the old O/P6 ("To solve the overarching problem, we’re going to have to create a new way of engaging with each other both politically and personally. That means building on an understanding grounded in flow of energy."), I discovered a gap. What exactly is going to open us to the idea that bioenergetics, centering, flow, etc. are the path to the right answer? What’s going to bring about our awakening?)

The shift to hyper-partisanship isn’t something those people did. You’re a participant in it. So am I.

We can trace a massive cultural shift back to the fall of 1996 and the launch of the Fox News Channel. To people who wanted 24-hour news coverage but felt that CNN and MSNBC held a liberal bias, Fox News offered an alternative. Its meteoric ascent showed just how large that demographic really was.

Since that time, the proliferation of media outlets, along with the Internet’s evolution from a curiosity to a central position in our lives has radically accelerated the fragmentation of the population into carefully orchestrated media demographics. When you extrapolate from the ease of providing content to any niche audience you can imagine, it doesn’t take long before you end up with a situation as happened this election, in which people were so primed to believe things that fit their worldview that they stopped being concerned if those things were actually, you know, true.

The shift happened naturally enough. It results from tendencies within us that aren’t even something to especially decry. One of the core tenets of TTW is the cultivation of a state of ease in all things that we do, and from that perspective it’s clear why people would choose to consume media produced by people who share a similar worldview: it’s far more comfortable. Who wants to choose the discomfort of constantly experiencing the dissonance of dealing with people whose worldview does not match your own? Instead, at our current level of energetic development, we seek the comfortable consonance of "This affirms what I already think."

Unfortunately, this is leading, pretty inexorably, to the hyper-partisanship that is destroying our society. So there are some downsides.

But as I’ve said before, if you practice centering with real regularity and are honest about what you experience, you will fairly quickly be forced to confront that your existence as an entity discrete from all these other entities is actually an illusion. The truth of our deep connection simply becomes undeniable. Which is not to say that your thinking will suddenly line up with that of people with whom you disagree. Rather, you will recognize that your thinking, and thus your participation in this culture of conflict, is built on a faulty foundation. Your thinking is built on a notion of "us versus them." But there is no them. There is only us.

On Proposition 5

Proposition 5: Hyper-partisanship is not just making things worse, it’s leading inexorably to the collapse of the current system.

I acknowledge that worse is somewhat in the eye of the beholder, but let’s use this chart of Congressional job approval ratings to make the argument. (This chart comes from Gallup, the polling company.)


Let’s start our discussion in 1992. Through the Clinton presidency, Congress’s approval ratings trended upwards. Notice the substantial spike after 1994, which was the election that brought us the Gingrich revolution and really began the era of deep partisan divide in Congress. I propose two reasons for that upward trend. One was the economic boom of the ’90s–when people see improvements in their lives, they are more likely to see the government in favorable terms. But the other was in fact the partisanship that Gingrich brought with him, as highlighted, ultimately, by the Lewinsky scandal and Clinton’s impeachment. Initially, and contrary to my thesis, people liked partisanship. What changed?

The boom ended, that’s what. The boom itself was essentially extra-governmental. It arose via the first wave of efficiencies wrought by the Internet. Thus the partisanship of the ’90s was essentially a sideshow. But then the boom ended, and we returned to a situation in which we needed a functioning government to make things better for people. And the government has increasingly failed to do so. You can see that failure in the trends of Congressional approval ratings since the end of the Clinton presidency.

If we discount the peak right after September 11, 2001, the trend was strongly downward throughout the George W. Bush administration, rose sharply but briefly at the start of the Obama administration, fell to news lows as that administration went on, and now has risen again–all the way to 28% approval!–at the start of the Trump administration. I predict the bump upward will be as short-lived as it was at the start of the Obama administration, and we’ll soon see Congressional approval fall to new lows.

Conflict is not a path to creation.

So if partisanship has not led to outcomes people like, is there any sign that the trend toward partisanship is abating? In fact, just the opposite is happening. Check out this graphic showing how the electoral results across America are getting more and more polarized:


(For more discussion of this graphic and the underlying phenomenon, please see Purple America Has All But Disappeared on fivethirtyeight.com.)

So: partisanship is making things worse, and partisanship is increasing. Only time will tell if the second half of my proposition is accurate. But I propose that increasing partisanship and worsening results from the system form a feedback loop. Extreme partisanship leads to a Congress (and therefore government in general) unable to get anything done, which leads to disgust with the system and deeper distrust of the other side, whom each side respectively blames for everything that isn’t working, which leads to deeper partisanship, and so on.

There’s a limit to how much a system can degrade before it collapses. Once a feedback loop gets set into place, it will grow and grow and grow until something comes along to arrest it. Do you see any evidence that anything is going to do that with respect to our system? Any at all?

On Observation 4: The Growing Awareness that Something Is Amiss

Observation 4: There’s a growing awareness that something is deeply amiss, that our problems run deeper than just who’s currently in office.

It was this observation that really drove Jerry and me to shift the focus of TTW from exploring using energetics and flow in the realm of sports to connecting with what we were witnessing happen in the political realm and throughout our society as a whole. We did not and do not see what happened in 2016 as just another election. The cultural currents at play are far deeper and more powerful.

I strive to be as non-partisan as I am able in these writings, so I apologize if this alienates you, but what Trump supported and stood for was problematic. He displayed deeply sexist tendencies. His immigration policies were built, at best, on deep xenophobia, if not outright racism. His “drain the swamp” rhetoric spoke, perhaps not unreasonably, to voters who felt that the problems we face are inherent in Washington itself, but in extending that rhetoric to attacks on the press, he inhabits a space usually held by despots and dictators. There’s a reason freedom of the press is contained in the *First* Amendment: a free press is a core value of our country.

Some of Trump’s support came from people who felt empowered by his uglier side. But I maintain that the vast majority of people are decent, and decent people who voted for Trump surely did so with substantial reservations. But for the many Trump voters who feel that the system is no longer working, the choice to vote for someone so hostile to the system itself was sort of a last-gasp attempt to force the system to change, instead of having to throw the whole thing away and start over.

But as we witness the chaos of Trump’s first seven weeks in office, it’s clear that the jolt Trump delivered to the system can only ever serve a negative purpose. By identifying and speaking to the problems driving populist revolt, he found himself in the White House. But he offers no positive answers. He’s a destroyer, not a creator. (Don’t think so? Consider that what he’s most famous for as a celebrity is nothing he created but rather his catchphrase: “You’re fired.”)

The collapse of the system is only accelerating. But I get the sense that few Trump voters are regretting choosing him instead of Clinton. They threw up a hail-mary in the hopes that the system’s dysfunction could be arrested. It’s not working and it’s not going to work. So if the answer to the question, “Which of the candidates could fix the system?” is “None of them,” then we’re forced to ask, “Where to from here?”

I’ll offer an answer. At the far side of this crisis–which, granted, may be decades away–I predict a reconstitution of our political structures. At some point we’ll finally see endless acrimony and conflict for the dead ends that they are. When that happens, we’re going to have to re-agree that we’re united in certain core values, and that though we may disagree about particular issues, we choose to have faith in the essential goodness of people, and build our new system on a lived foundation of mutual respect.

On Proposition 3: The System Fails Most Americans

Proposition 3: A clear manifestation of this blockage is that our system is no longer capable of bringing about outcomes that are for the good of the majority of Americans. More accurately and more strongly: only a small minority of Americans are benefiting from the system as it is operating now.

(Yes, I changed the word from observation to proposition.)

While debate about what led to Trump’s victory will rage on, and while no single factor fully explains the outcome, it’s undeniable that in the general election Trump was the only candidate speaking to the sense of decline felt by many Americans, a sense that they’ve been left behind. While it was easy to hear within Trump’s call to "Make America Great Again" his supporters’ anxiety about a world in which the previously dominant power structure (white, straight, patriarchal) is being superseded by something more inclusive of cultural, racial, and sexual minorities, it’s undeniable that many of the economic changes over the last couple of generations have taken away the opportunities that once allowed the working class a path to middle class comfort and a concomitant dignity.

While Trump’s protectionist stances were widely derided by the intelligentsia on both sides of the aisle–Didn’t he get the memo that globalization is an unqualified success? seemed to be the general sense–it’s worth remembering that the promise of deals like NAFTA was that free trade would benefit all people. And while it’s true that the ability of capital to move manufacturing to the places where costs are lowest has meant that Americans get cheap TVs and cell phones, what’s gone along with that is the disappearance of the sorts of jobs that a high-school-educated person could have relied on 40 years ago to be a safe ticket to the middle class, and millions of part-time jobs at Starbucks and Walmart aren’t filling the gap.

Or let’s consider the costs and benefits of the most significant and of course most controversial piece of legislation during the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act. In my piece from two weeks ago, I defended the ACA as better than the system we had before, because it has given many millions of Americans access to health care who previously lacked it. Nonetheless, it’s clear that the law is a far cry from an unqualified success. Is it better for the majority of Americans? Possibly. But a more salient question is, Do a majority of Americans believe it to be better? Republican electoral success since the 2010 midterms would suggest not.

Another useful measuring stick of the blockage I’m speaking of is the distribution of income and wealth in our country. Coinciding with the rise of supply-side, trickle-down economics, which hold that tax cuts for the wealthiest lead to benefits for all, an orthodoxy essentially unchallenged since the Reagan era, we’ve seen income and wealth inequality increase for almost forty years. The rich have gotten much richer, while the rest have seen stagnation, even decline.

When you consider the policy proposals at the heart of the Trump/Republican plans for governance–immigration crackdowns, repealing the ACA (without, it seems, the vaguest ideas of how to replace it with something better), increased military spending, and tax cuts (offered as a good unto themselves); and when you consider that the Democrats offered little more than the status quo, one has to ask, Is this the best we can do? Either the status quo of the last eight years or else a doubling down of the policies of the Reagan and Bush (I and II) administrations?

Sadly, by all appearances, this is exactly the case: this is the best we can do. And if the best we can do is to continue to run a system that will not and cannot benefit most of the people whom it is supposed to serve, then it has become time to change that system.

Three Words

I need to interrupt my series of pieces about my guiding observations. I’ll resume that series next week.

I keep seeing this happen: an actor (or a comedian, or a musician, or a sports star) says something political. Someone somewhere–this happens all the time on Twitter–tells that person to stick to acting (or comedy, or music, or sports). Wednesday morning I watched the talking heads on ESPN debate whether or not it is appropriate that Steve Kerr, head coach of the Golden State Warriors basketball team, has recently been outspoken on political issues.

This is very very important so let me say it as clearly as I can:

The essential core of our republic lies in the first three words of the Constitution.

Those three words are: "We the People."

Our whole society rests on the foundation of those three words. We the People means that the government is not a thing outside of us that we have no connection to. Our government is directed not by kings nor emperors nor popes nor ayatollahs nor führers. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT.

We, the People.

So understand: in our country, it is not just your right to speak when you feel called to speak. It is your responsibility.

On Observation 2: Ignoring, Working Around, or Fixing the Blockage?

Observation 2: We’re past the point where this blockage can be ignored or worked around. We’re also past the point where this blockage can be easily fixed.

First, a couple of assertions: As a nation and as a species, we are facing some grave problems. These problems will take political will to solve–market-based approaches are pipe dreams.

"Political will" is an abstract term, but at its heart it means "a coming together of the people." This is true everywhere. No matter how autocratic the government, nothing gets done without some acquiescence of the people. In the United States, this coming together is explicit in our system of governance. It’s significant that our Constitution begins with the words, "We the People."

Can we ignore the energetic blockage at the heart of our political system? To successfully ignore the blockage in our political system would require a system that is actually functioning. But think of the last thing that Congress did that (a) seemed like a serious attempt at a solution to a serious problem and (b) featured both parties working together to find that solution. The last bipartisan success I can recall was when Congress retroactively legalized the bulk spying on the American people that Edward Snowden revealed. But "let’s cover our asses" in the face of government law breaking is not a sign of a functioning system but the opposite.

Can we work around the blockage? On this front, my observation might be wrong: working around the blockage may be possible. With Republicans having control of both houses of Congress as well as the White House, the only thing that should be preventing them from steamrolling their opposition is the Democrats ability to filibuster in the Senate. It’s furthermore possible that the Republicans could end the filibuster completely to get their agenda passed. So we could see a conservative agenda make a strong advance between now and the midterm elections.

But consider the evidence to the contrary: We are almost one month into Trump’s administration, and what we are seeing so far is not unity between the Legislative and Executive branches of our government working to advance some kind of consistent agenda. What we are seeing right now is utter chaos.

From an energetic perspective, this chaos makes perfect sense. Blocked systems do not flow. Blocked systems succumb to illness. I admit, it’s early yet and there’s plenty of time for things to change. Perhaps the Republicans will find a way to stumble or surge along. But the dynamics of flow of energy suggest otherwise.

Can the blockage be easily fixed?

Let’s define "easily fixed" to mean that it will fix itself–that the government’s dysfunction, which has been growing since (at least) the Gingrich revolution in 1994, will start to ease and reverse.

To discuss the possibility, let’s talk about the single most contentious policy of the Obama administration, the Affordable Care Act a.k.a Obamacare.

The Republicans have opposed the ACA furiously since it was passed. They saw validation of their approach in the election of 2010, which certainly served as a stunning rebuke of the Democrats. (Democrats lost six seats in the Senate, an astonishing 63 in the House, and six governorships.) As it was the ACA which had dominated the shouting class in the run-up to the election, the view that the American people hated the ACA cannot be dismissed. But I want to propose that ire towards the law had very little to do with the quality of the law itself, but was instead a proxy for a deeper anger, namely, a sense that the people had been betrayed by Wall Street in causing the financial crisis, and that the focus on health care instead of a serious look at reform of the excesses of the financial industry felt like a further betrayal. In the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, the Democrats were not given an electoral mandate to put their energy elsewhere.

Since then, the Republicans have engaged in endless theater around the ACA. You can remember the infinite number of times House Republicans voted to defund the ACA, a tedious piece of political theater which never had the slightest chance of succeeding while Obama remained in office.

But now Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House (to the extent that anyone is currently in control of the White House). They have been promising to end "Obamacare" since it was passed and now they have the means to do so. And yet there’s been essentially no forward momentum to do so. Why is that?

It’s because the current situation is better than one in which the ACA is repealed without a replacement. The ACA is genuinely better than nothing at all, and the Republican have been forced to admit it via their actions (though obviously not their words). And so to make significant changes in the law without being totally harmful to the many millions who have benefited since the law went into place, and, let’s face it, harmful to the fortunes of Congresspeople who will have to answer to their constituents in a couple of years, puts Republicans in a tricky situation.

To deal effectively with what they’re trying to do would require them to challenge some of the beliefs that they have been shouting about for (at least) the past eight years. Maybe not all taxes are bad, and well-designed taxes levied for a specific purpose are worthwhile. Maybe a system that substantially increases access to health care, even if flawed, is better than a system that doesn’t allow that access. And maybe the initial problem was correctly diagnosed: that in a country as wealthy as ours, there is a something morally problematic with a system in which as substantial minority of people–many millions of them–lack access to even basic health care.

Given all of that, please consider this remarkable quote from Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, from a couple of days ago:

Something that Republicans need to be concerned about is that [if] we’re just going to replace Obamacare with Obamacare-lite, [it] begs the question, were we just against Obamacare because it was proposed by Democrats? And if that’s our position, then we’re very hypocritical. Then we really were just taking a political position, not a policy-based position. If we’re going to come back with something that does exactly the same thing as Obamacare, but change a couple of things and just call it Trumpcare or Ryancare, then what was our fight about for the last six years?

To fully understand this quote, you have to know that Rep. Labrador is a member of the Freedom Caucus, a group of the most conservative lawmakers in house, closely aligned with the Tea Party. Labrador is not following the evidence to the obvious conclusion–that the Republican position on the ACA was never anything more than a political position. He’s doing the necessary mental contortions to continue to hold on to his opinion that Obamacare is a travesty. In other words, his identity as a conservative trumps any evidence that he and his party might be wrong about the ACA.

To be able to utter sentences like this and then hold on to the opposite conclusion is exactly what I mean when I say that the blockage we’re seeing cannot be fixed by any normal means.

In short, the only way forward to a working system will have to derive from a profound shift in consciousness.

Observation 1: Our Political System Is Blocked on a Fundamental, Energetic Level

One of the key understandings that arises as you practice becoming more centered, grounded and energy aware is that our separation from the world around us, our sense of an existence discrete from our environment and each other, is an illusion. This is as observable a reality as that grass is green, the sky is blue, and water is wet. For some reason, one of the key traits of modernity is that we’ve suppressed our sensitivity to this reality. It’s no more something I can prove to you rhetorically than I can prove that fire is hot. But breathe and center: soon enough, this truth will reveal itself. You’ll find yourself stunned that you ever experienced things any other way.

Our political system has divided into two camps: Us, and Them. Consider: On Wednesday, Jeff Sessions was confirmed as Attorney General on a vote that saw exactly one senator, a Democrat, break from the party line. On Tuesday, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as Secretary of Education on a vote in which she was opposed by every Democrat and exactly two Republicans. Flip the party of the president around: During the Obama administration, on issue after issue, Republicans were unified in their opposition.

Does this strike you as natural? Or does it seem more likely that we’ve come to determine our beliefs not by thinking but by through our identities as Democrats or Republicans?

Imagine, instead, if we approached issues from a sense of flow, a sense of ground. I’m not suggesting that we’d all agree on everything–our differing backgrounds would still lead us to think in different ways. But by finding our way to our answers through our own bodies, we’d overcome this unthinking, unfeeling tribalism that passes for political awareness.

The symptoms of this tribalism are all too obvious. The mutual antipathy on display corrodes all discourse. Indeed, it has become the dominant feature of our current system.

And how well is our system actually working? Are we getting things done? No, we are not. We are not capable of doing anything productive, only destructive. Republicans spent the last seven-and-a-half years screaming about Obamacare, promising they’d repeal it right away–but you notice how little forward movement on that front they’ve actually managed, because, while Republicans are unified in their opposition, *they have no creative ideas, no ideas for something better.*

These are the manifestations of the energetic blockages at the core of our present political system.