When I first started going to yoga and heard people say Namaste at the end it sounded like the David Spade SNL skit…BUHHHHH BYYYYE. I had no clue what the heck people were saying and when teacher’s explained it, it seemed, well….cheesy to say the least. I was young and the Namaste thing felt weird. I went to yoga because I thought it would make me look like Gweneth Paltrow (if you don’t know me….I am about a foot shorter than her, not happening even if I stretch this body until I die:) Now that I teach yoga and have become one of THOSE people (sort of anyway) I see that glazed over look at the end of class that beginners have. They are not so comfortable sharing in the whole Namaste thing but they definitely look like they caught the bliss bug that’s for sure. I thought maybe we could chat a bit about this Namaste bit over some tea today.
Namaste translates as “I bow to you.” It is a Hindu greeting, a gesture, which is often given with ones hands in prayer in front of the heart. I typically share with students “the light within me sees the light within you.” I particularly love Namaste because it acknowledges that there is no difference between you and me. We are all in this journey together and we don’t always do things perfectly. We are, though, doing things to the best of our ability in that moment. At times we do it with grace and ease, other times we fumble through life looking like we did our makeup in the dark. It’s just how it goes. To me this greeting no longer feels cheesy or uncomfortable because I have been able to relate it to a heartfelt intention I have for every encounter I have with people. We have our own uniqueness but we are part of the same Universe, each with our unique story but similar just the same. By saying Namaste, we pay homage to the likeness in each of us. I also like to use this concept in my private practice. I have grown to be uncomfortable with being on the pedestal that being in the professional role as therapist has you on. I am far more comfortable just being one of the bunch. I can guide, inspire and mentor in my professional life but I do not cure or save people. We all, when ready, allow ourselves to be guided back to our own heart and soul. I am grateful to be in the place to help in that process and that I also get to be just like you taking steps along that same journey.
In her book” The Places that Scare You” Pema Chodron writes “For an aspiring bodhisattva (a person in the training of being an enlightened or spiritual being) the essential practice is to cultivate maitri. In the Shambhala teachings this is called “placing our fearful mind in the cradle of loving-kindness.” What this means broken down is, in order to receive kindness we need to give kindness first to ourselves then from there it pours out towards others. She goes on to write “Another image for maitri or loving kindness is that of a mother bird who protects and cares for her young until they are strong enough to fly away. People sometimes ask ‘who am I in this image? The mother or the chicks?’ The answer is we are both: both the loving mother and those ugly little chicks. It’s easy to identify with the babies – blind, raw, and desperate for attention. We are poignant mixtures of something that isn’t all that beautiful and yet is dearly loved. Whether it is our attitude towards ourselves or towards others, it is the key to learning how to love.” Ok, now do you see why I call Pema a friend? She knows just what to say in a very eloquent and beautiful way. I often tell my clients we are all a mixed bag. No one is all good or all bad. We are all just in this together. The key is to begin to have a loving relationship with the parts of ourselves we may not like because they are a part of who we are. This will then free us up to love people even when we don’t like parts of them either. We are all the mother and the chick. We are raw, blind at times and protective, motherly. We are all of it.
Now when you go to class and the teacher says Namaste understand that it’s an opportunity to show yourself some gratitude; some love. The part of you that showed up on the mat that day to make shifts and changes within your body and soul that maybe you haven’t been ready to do in the past. Life is ever evolving and changing. So to are we. The lesson within all of this is to love, from an open place, even the things we don’t like. The freedom from this place of loving acceptance will bring you closer towards wellness and ultimately wholeness within yourself.