Prefigurative Politics

Desirée Rumbaugh has sent a letter to Anusara teachers, invoking M. K. Gandhi’s oft-quoted aphorism uniting personal and social change, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

When we focus so much on shouting about what we no longer want, we just attract more of the same. When we focus instead upon what we do want, we create positive change.

Desirée Rumbaugh via Update on Anusara: Letters From Certified Anusara Teachers. at Bay Shakti

Any discussion of power, even the shift to “power with” proposed here, is small ‘P’ politics. Social scientists call the kind of politics she speaks of “prefigurative.” What better way to model how you want things to be than to do it. This reminds me so much of a poem by Denise Levertov, “Making Peace.”


But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.

A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.

via Making Peace by Denise Levertov : The Poetry Foundation.


It was an issue of Yoga Journal with Desirée on the cover I read in February 2009 that helped inspire me to inquire about Anusara. I took an evening workshop with Desirée on Diwali in 2010. For many reasons, including personal ones, that was a watershed evening for me. The revelations she shared that night and the vigor of the class helped me get into Eka Pada Galavasana, with the back foot off the ground momentarily. Two of the Certified teachers with whom I study regularly are her students. Moreover, it was auspicious that with one of them this morning, we worked on that pose.

For these reasons, and because of her overall gravitas in the kula, I am inclined to be inspired by her exhortation. But it also reverberates strongly in this social science mind, because of the notion of a prefigurative politics.

May we practice the grammar of justice, the syntax of mutual aid.


About Richard Hudak

I am Senior Adjunct Faculty in Sociology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and I have been a practitioner of Anusara™ yoga. I have completed 200 hours of teacher training within its diaspora community, consistent with its philosophy and alignment principles.
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