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Tuesday, January 18, 2011



It's a greeting used very commonly by Indians and for those of you who have ever been to a yoga class, its most likely something you are familiar with.

At the end of a yoga class, before you walk out the door, the teacher will usually lift their hands together, clasp them and slightly lower their head and say "Namaste."

"Namaste," the class will respond before rolling up their mats and going on their way - to run back into their cars, grab the kids from daycare, make that run to Starbucks.

What is lost in that exchange is the absolute beauty of the word.


Translated from ancient Sanskrit, the word roughly translates to:

"In you I see the divine."


What a powerful thing to say. What a powerful word to bestow upon someone. And how often is it lost without any understanding of it's true beauty?

A few years ago, I was at work when an instant message popped up on my screen from an old friend. He had never been a fan of Indian food, mainly because of lack of exposure to it and apparently had to share his recent findings.

Him: Guess where I am?
Me: no freaking clue
Him: I'm on a project in Bangalore! And you were right! I am loving the food.
Me: What, is it better than that crap you call food that you get in Ireland?

(again, ignorance can run both ways. I am sure Irish food is just lovely. I am positively sure. Like 87% sure.)

Him: Ha ha. No seriously. Sambhar and dosa for breakfast. So good.

My mouth started salivating as I looked at the stale bagel on my desk. Rumble. Ughh. I needed to turn the subject away from food.

Me: Have you learned any Hindi?
Him: Not really. Everyone I work with speaks English.
Me: Ok - well you should know this one. Namaste.
Him: What is that?
Me: It's a greeting. It means in you I see the divine.

Silence. I could see . . . typing in the background.

Him: Well, I never knew you felt that way about me. This is awkward.
Me: No. It's just a greeting. You should learn it. Appreciate and say it while you are there.
Him: Yeah, anyway - I uh . . gotta go.

He probably made a hasty retreat back to some good food while I was stuck with my nasty old sesame bagel.

"Namaste to me," I thought as I threw the stale bagel in the trash.

But isn't it true?

Can you imagine if we each looked at each other and acknowledged that within each of us - there is something divine, something special, something that matters and means more than all the bazillions of cells that comprise our bodies.

That every child's smile.
Every stranger's tears.
Every hope that lingers in the hearts of people you will never know across the world.
Every dream that grows in a young person's hearts about their destiny.

That all of it, in some way, is divine?

I know. I know. You are now thinking about that jerk that ran the four way stop sign in his mini van practically running you off the road this morning.

Or you are thinking about the horrific act of violence that took Arizona by storm over a week ago.

Or you are thinking about two towers falling and collapsing with the hearts and dreams of everyone within.

How do you reconcile that?

I just think, in the most simplistic way possible, that if we spent more time embracing the divinity within each of us and realizing that we are all part of this crazy messed up world together, maybe - just maybe - we would all believe in ourselves a littler more.

And in embracing ourselves - we would all be just a little more tolerant. A little more empathetic. A little more respectful.

And a lot more loving.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King's Day. I think about the belief system he espoused and the ones that Henry David Thoreau and Mohandas Gandhi had all embraced in their teachings.

And I have to believe that we are all, in some way, meant to embrace that divine



Wanda said...

I really needed to read this today my friend. It was obviously a lesson I needed to hear in this moment. So Namaste to you beautiful - you ARE simply divine. Miss you.

Shell said...

The first yoga teacher I had was fabulous and she took the time to explain what the word meant and I have loved it ever since. Though, she said something like "the beauty in me recognizes and honors the beauty in you." I thought that was perfect- to see what is beautiful in everyone, even ourselves.

webb said...

Namaste to the intern who helped to save Gabby Gifford's life.

Namaste to the fire fighters and police officers who ran into the towers.

Namaste to the wife of the stop-sign-runner who has to put up with him 24/7.

And namaste to you - everyday. xoxo

French Family said...

I funny thing happened on my way to post a snarky repsonse - I realized you are right. Someone once asked me if I believed in the existence of God. I replied "Every time I hear a one of my children laugh." Thanks for the reminder.

Trooper Thorn said...

It's a great way to respect people. Like how we say "Ani gashi mas" to your partner in karate (before to try to strike them).

alessandra said...

Namaste, beautiful word, beautiful meaning, beautiful post. :D

Hutch said...

and here I was thinking it was I see the Divine in You. A little backwards, whoops! :)

foxy said...

Great post! You're right, I say it in yoga approximately 3 times/week, but I don't really think about the meaning when I say it. I will from now on.

Namaste, my friend!

Sadia said...

I've always loved "Namaste", but in Bangladesh, greetings are yet another way to label each other. You only say "Namaste" to Hindus. One uses the Arabic "Salaam" to Muslims. If the greeting is between people of different religions, whoever is greeted first determines the greeting to be used.

Greeting Christians was always a matter of great discomfort, because there wasn't a standard greeting.

Namaste is beautiful in its meaning, but in Bangladesh, at least, I found "Hello" to be far simpler!

Sue @ Laundry for Six said...

Love this! I didn't know that's what it meant. I don't take yoga, but I'm working this into my vernacular.

Karls said...

That was gorgeous love! I never really knew the meaning... It is a truly wonderful word.

Caroline said...

The greeting has always just made me feel good, even though I didn't know what it meant. Thank you!

mac said...

This is a lovey post.

I have different theological leanings than a lot of folks. I knew what it meant, but have rarely used it due to not *really* knowing. You know? It's that difference in knowing vocabulary and understanding vocabulary. If that makes sense????



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