October 4, 2012

Why I Don’t Say Namaste.

Okay, I do say it sometimes…

I’ll say it in response at the end of a yoga class if it feels appropriate. And I’ll say it ironically.

But…I don’t really like to say it. The last time I mentioned this, it upset some of our readers. I get it. I get what it means, and it’s wonderful to honor the light in each other. If we set aside the fact that it’s become overused in the yoga community to the point of becoming a cliche…those breathy, half-closed eyes where we knowingly bow at each other with hands joined at heart…forgive me if you manage to always do it with meaning, but sometimes, it does bring my lunch up in my throat a little.

Here’s the thing:

Light is one small part of who we are.

When we feel that connection with another human being, that spark, that (sorry, Waylon, I know you hate this term) resonance with another person, part of it is that we recognize the light we share in common.

If we only look at the parts of each other that are “light,” we miss so much. If we only have the notes of the music and not the rests—it’s just noise. If we only look at each other’s light, we aren’t being genuine. We miss crucial things about each other. If we pick and choose instead of opening up to the ever shifting kaleidoscope of the human experience, we miss it. We miss being present. We miss connecting with each other’s shadows.

If all we acknowledge is the light, it feels artificial. It is artificial. It’s like sitting under a giant halogen lamp all the time instead of having the sunlight that shifts and changes with the clouds.

If we truly wish to bow to each other, to connect with each other, the first step is admitting that there is darkness within us as well.

We cannot fully accept each other—or ourselves—until we accept that fact. I am equal parts shadow and light, and if that were not the case, I wouldn’t be living this precious human life. All of us have all of it. The person you look at as evil or depraved has within him—somewhere—that basic human light that you say “namaste” to. The person you revere as enlightened has his share of darkness as well.

It isn’t something to run from. It isn’t something we should hide from each other. If our true desire is more peace in the world and loving kindness towards each other, we cannot get there until we look at our darkness. If I want you to know me, and all I show you is parts of me that are polished and perfect, happy and light—you will never really know me. If I want to love you, but I don’t want to know your fear, your anger, your shame…it won’t happen.

We all love to share that quote about “cracks being what lets the light in.” We talk about embracing how we are magnificent, and letting go of our fear of being brilliant. It’s true, and I’m glad to recognize it. Recognizing the light in each other is a beautiful thing.

Without accepting and acknowledging each other’s shadows, it’s an incomplete thing.

“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”~ Pema Chodron

The point isn’t to wallow or feel overwhelmed with the parts that aren’t all happy and shiny. The point is to look at them, to sit with them, because they are part of who we are. It’s like taking a child’s wounded hand, turning it over and taking a look. Sometimes just the acknowledgement of each other’s brokenness is a profound step towards healing.

Maybe instead of all the “namaste” it’s time we say, it’s okay.

I see your shadows and they’re a lot like mine.

I see you. I see you, and it’s okay.

I will hold your hand, and we’ll help each other find our way in the dark.


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