For years I've been closing my blog posts with the phrase Namaste. This salutation is quite commonly used in the yoga world, so it's probably familiar to most of you. In fact, one could argue that it has become a bit of a throwaway phrase, simliar to "Hi. How are you?" So often this casual question is asked with very little expectation -- or care -- of receiving an answer. It always amuses me to see how often people skim right over the question, either never answering it (if you're on the receiving end) or never even pausing to hear the answer (if you're the one who offers up this greeting).
Is Namaste Devoid of Meaning?
Has the term Namaste used so liberally that it has ceased to mean anything? Perhaps.
That's why I'm writing this post -- to bring a little consciousness to this little term with such a big meaning. I've heard a lot of translations of the word Namaste: the light in me bows to the light in you, the divine in me recognizes the divine in you, I bow to you in respect and greeting, and the divine/spirit in me recognizes and honors the divine/spirit in you. Whoa -- that's a bit more meaningful than a simple "hey, how are you?" don't you think?
You Are Divine
Over the last couple of years, I've been more thoughtful about the idea that the divine is in each of us. That can be hard to recognize sometimes, as we often beat ourselves up for silly reasons (we're not doing enough, being enough, buying enough, earning enough, thin enough, beautiful/handsome enough, etc.). And when we can't see the divine in ourselves, it's pretty darned difficult to see it in others. After all, when you've asked your partner for the tenth time to fill up the gas tank in the car when the needle hits E to no avail, your first thought might not be -- ah, I see the divine in him/her.
This is why I like using the term Namaste -- because it reminds me that the divine is in each of us (yes, even the yogis on the mat next to yours who are texting with one hand while in downward dog) and we are all connected. When I'm in the presence of someone with whom I feel very different from (or don't like or am activated by), I silently say Namaste to consciously remind myself that the person is no different than I am. If I'm really struggling, I try to picture the person as a little boy/girl -- after all, who can be nasty to a child?
A Practice for Finding the Divine in Yourself and Others
Why not spend a little time meditating on the meaning of Namaste and practice recognizing the divine in yourself? For some of us, it's easier to honor others than ourself. At the end of your yoga practice, bring your palms together and say outloud to yourself Namaste and ask yourself how you can honor yourself today. After a little practice, you can start extending your compassion, respect, and recognition of the divine within to others.
Some Reading Material to Ponder
If you'd like some reading to help you jumpstart your meditation on the true mean of Namaste, check out these links:
Say Namaste for a Good Cause
iNamaste.org, a non-profit organization, recently embarked on an ambitious project entitled the Global Namaste Collage. The goal is to create the largest collage of Namaste photos and give the proceeds to charity. It's the perfect excuse to get your Namaste on for a good cause. Click here to view the beautiful Namaste photos of others around the world and to submit your own (it's free to submit your picture).
I say it's time to put the meaning back in Namaste, making it more than a throwaway yoga phrase.
Namaste! (and I mean that from the bottom of my heart)