The Meditation Mantra of the Month is NAMASTE. It is so much more than the word marking the end of a yoga class but I fear that might be what people think it means…you’re free to roll up your mat and go run errands…ok, now you can check your phone… I’m starting to wonder if yoga classes should maybe start with saying namaste too. It seems like it would be a more authentic use of it.
In Hindu culture “namaste” is a greeting recognizing the “sacred mystery” of the other, as Karen Armstrong describes it in her book 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life. Over the last few weeks I have been listening to podcasts and started reading a book that again and again directs all my attention to what has come to be a practice of namaste. A practice of asking more questions than answering. A practice of curiosity more than assumptions. A practice of proximity — getting close enough to see someone and recognize them as a sacred mystery that I will never fully know. A practice of recognizing that all living things (including human beings) are sacred mysteries. Even if we factually know how babies are made and trees grow…isn’t there still a whole lot of but how the heck does that actually work? It is still all kinds of amazing. All living things are sacred mysteries that we only get superficial glimpses of in that we only see what is apparent on the outside or can be somehow articulated. And we ourselves are only aware of so much going on inside our own body. Have you ever gotten lost staring at all of humanity, realizing that we were all born the same way? IT IS CRAZY. We are sacred mysteries.
I started reading a book called “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson. He founded a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly convicted, and those trapped in the furthest reaches of our criminal justice system (I took that directly from the back of the book). I had heard an interview of him a year ago and I so vividly remember something he said so when I recently read it in the book, I immediately heard the practice of namaste. He wrote this about his work; “Proximity has taught me some basic and humbling truths, including the vital lesson: Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done”. This somehow knocks my socks off. We are all more than the worst, best, and most mediocre thing we’ve ever done. We are more than who we were. We are freaking sacred mysteries.
I am aware that when people come to class they have H U G E lives outside of the room. I only see a tiny sliver of them. Sometimes they (you) tell me of the blessings and the burdens happening in their life, providing me a wee broader perspective. But, even that is limited. So, maybe practicing namaste at the beginning of class is a recognition that you showed up & I see you. You see that I made it to class, despite all the other conflicts and distractions that might have kept me away. We all showed up and that is No Small Thing.
I also think namaste is a practice in humility and radical hospitality. I know that it is really easy to make assumptions and create whole stories in your head about other people in class, based on their age, hair, yoga mat, clothes, body, apparent personality. What if we said namaste at the beginning of class – not just to the instructor – but to each other as a humble recognition that we are each and every one of us sacred mysteries and Far More than we could ever perceive or imagine. Might that keep us from making judgments about others & maybe assuming they are judging and creating stories in their head about us. What if starting each class with namaste was sort of like stating a commitment to that gathered community of humility, patience, acceptance, and grace. What if recognizing the sacred mystery of each person gathered at the end & the beginning made a container of such generous hospitality that we embodied the practice of namaste throughout the class. HUH. I think we will do just that.
Peace on your head, you.