A karma yogi flexes her substantial political muscle in favor of family time.
By Diane Anderson
Joan Blades is one busy woman. She and her husband sold Berkeley Systems, the software company that created the once ubiquitous flying toasters screensavers, for millions in 1997. In 1998, she cofounded MoveOn.org, which has since grown into a 3.3 million-member national grassroots political organization. Her latest projects include coauthoring a book, The Motherhood Manifesto, and cofounding MomsRising, an Internet-based grassroots political action group that brings women together to network and influence public policy so that Americans can enjoy a better work/life balance. Since 2006, the group has called for fair wages for women, family leave, afterschool programs, health care for kids, and the elimination of laws that allow employers to inquire whether a job applicant is married or has kids. And Blades has caught the attention of politicians such as Senators Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Ted Kennedy, who attended a screening of the Motherhood Manifesto documentary.
What keeps her sane? Yoga. “Yoga has been key to keeping my body working so that I can work. Daily Sun Salutations are crucial,” says Blades, who practices at her Berkeley, California, home and proselytizes for yoga to everyone who’ll listen. “A quiet meditative practice gives you focus and enables you to think well.”
Blades has been a full-time volunteer for eight years, so the concept of service is a huge part of her life. She recognizes that few people have the resources to devote time and energy to volunteer work, their kids, and communing with nature—”I have gratitude and appreciation for all the gifts I’ve been given”—so she’s committed to changing that reality through MomsRising. “Life is about learning to love. First you love yourself, then your immediate family, then hopefully your community. The challenge is learning to love the world at large,” says Blades. “Karma yoga is fully aligned with how I try to be. It’s a tall order, but I strive to do what I’m doing because it is right, and I try to not let ego get in the way.”