February 23, 2016 Leave your thoughts
(Shout-out to my amazing teacher Emily, who is not only one of the most gorgeous human beings on the planet both inside and out, but also knows me too well and has the best handwriting ever, as evidenced above, and is a great inspiration of mine! xoxo!!!)
At the end of every yoga class, I sit in silence at the top of my mat with my hands pressed in anjali mudra against my heart, feeling the energy of my past hour of practice wash over me in a calming inundation of good vibes. All of us in the room then bow our heads and say namaste, expressing our gratitude for our practice, our teacher, and our fellow yogis.
In Sanskrit, namaste literally translates to “I bow to you,” but depending on tradition, there are many ways to interpret such a loaded word. My personal favorite, though, is this: “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you”…because in this gesture, you are recognizing that both you AND those around you possess a wonderful radiance. Basically, you acknowledge that your entire world is steeped in light, and I think that’s a truly lovely philosophy.
Right now, I’m personally feeling very stuck, slinking through the quibbles and dabbles of adolescent life. I’m not in college yet, but I’m not really in high school, either: this is my last semester, and all of a sudden this pressure that’s been building up the past four years has dissipated into near apathy. I’ve been doing the same routine forever, it seems, and each day simultaneously seems to drag on yet blend seamlessly into the day before and the day afterwards. There are moments here and there where I feel a rush of excited adrenaline for the future pumping through my veins, but most of the time, I’m just sitting, staring into space, being here, wherever here is, and being completely aware of it.
But that is life. Life isn’t about the dazzling heights of milestones like graduating, winning an award, going on a fabulous vacation: life is about brushing your teeth twice a day, feeling up avocados in the grocery store on an early Tuesday evening, stepping in a pile of late February slosh that’s there for the sole purpose of ruining your shoes (pun intended).
Life is about the interactions of each passing “normal” day, and that can make people frustrated and upset, because a lot of days are so humdrum that they seem to stand as boring blobs of blah. Trust me. I get it. But lately, I’ve been trying my darndest to find sparkle and joy in the little moments, because if you shake up your perspective, at least one really awesome thing happens every day. And for me, saying namaste helps me get to that daily place of contentment, if not elation, because even if your circumstances aren’t the most exciting, the people around you always are, if you look closely enough.
So, how can you say namaste not only to yourself, but to the world every day?
1. Give other people chances.
So often, we make snap judgments about the people we meet, the people we interact with on a daily basis. We take others at face-value, because it allows us to filter and simplify our world without giving it much thought. We define people based on what they wear, who they hang out with, the gossip we hear about them through whispered rumors…and while these quick, very materialistic analyses enable us to nicely compartmentalize our worlds, it makes our scopes of human interaction quite narrow.
And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown really not to like this approach. I look at the relationships I have, and I’ve found that the ones that mean the most to me are where I’ve given another person a chance despite my first expectation of him or her. I once knew someone whom I thought I’d never be friends with, because my initial conception was that he was mean and wouldn’t like me. But then, I gave him a chance, and I quickly realized that this was one of the most intelligent, honest, loyal people I had ever met, someone I never would’ve known was there otherwise. Today, this amazing person is one of my best friends in the ENTIRE universe, all because I let the world and not my judgment define my reality. (He is also now screaming at me through his phone. Love you too boo!!! <3 )
This has been a common trope in my life, whether it’s been with a teacher or a peer or someone I’ve met at a coffee shop: people can shine a light on you that fills you with the most lovely warmth, if you give them the opportunity to shine that light. Put aside your expectations and walk through the world with an open heart, letting those around you show you and tell you what they’re really like.
2. Be curious about the light all around you.
People honestly ask the most boring, bland questions sometimes. “How is your day?” “How is work/school/family stuff?” “What do you think of this project?” Sometimes we don’t even ask questions and just make blanket statements to fill silence, meaningless observations about the weather or tidbits about other people. Yes, small talk has its place, but I personally believe that we all have the potential to enhance our conversations with so much more sentiment if we give it a whirl.
Last year when I was bored in my U.S. History class, I would take out my rainbow pens and sheets of lined paper and write questions that, if given the opportunity, I would ask to someone I was getting to know. I entitled these lists of inquisitions “Dates and Figs,” and by the end of the year, I had compiled a whopping 800+ unique questions in total. Some were on the sillier side, like, “If you were a rubber ducky, what would you look like?” and “What is your preferred length of sock?,” while others were deeper, such as, “Who in the world can you tell anything to?” and “What is your deepest insecurity?.” My goal was to make my questions as interesting as possible, because there’s so much to be curious about in the world.
What was once a distraction in class became my new philosophy about the world. Dates and Figs inspired me to be fearless when talking to others, peeling past seemingly simple outer barriers to reach the intricacy that I’ve found every individual possesses. Sometimes, you get to this layer of complexity on a first encounter; other times, you’ve got to continually dig before you tap the surface of someone’s heart. But the journey to discover the source of another person’s light is one of the most humbling, rewarding experiences, if you give it time.
I’ve realized that you don’t really see the light in other people by asking them how their assignments are going or where they’re headed for lunch. You see the light in other people by asking them what their favorite color is, whether they consider themselves introverts or extroverts, what their greatest passion is. Be bold with the inquiries you pose, because hey, what’s holding you back? Society? BAH, society! (This is such an Abby statement.) You’re going to understand and appreciate people way more and way better if you discover what really goes on inside, because that’s who people really are. Genuineness exists inside everyone if you give him or her the chance to reveal it, so go find it.
3. Recognize that everyone’s light is different, and differently expressed.
Okay, so I’m going to sidetrack for a minute, but I promise it’s still relevant. One thing I’ve been very into recently is Myers-Briggs types. In case you don’t know what those are, it’s a simplification of Jung’s Psychological Types, where Isabel Myers and Katharine Cook-Briggs established 16 different ways that people are and go about the world. While it’s not a perfect science, I personally love Myers-Briggs because the principles emphasize that people work and feel and process information differently, not wrongly. The goal of Myers-Briggs is to articulate that if we work towards understanding where and why we differ, we’ll be better able to form relationships and be successful in all types of environments. Introversion versus extroversion, intuition versus sensing, thinking versus feeling, perception versus judgment: all of these elements come together in various combinations to display that we each are composed of varying patterns of thought and interaction.
This, to me, relates to namaste because by saying that the divine light in me sees the divine light in you, we’re saying that while we understand that we might not be the same, we recognize that we can all find a place of mutual admiration and respect. And that’s pretty powerful…and something I’ve been trying really hard to practice lately.
Me personally, I’m a very emotional, intuitive person, and most of my passions and interactions are deeply rooted in feelings and ideas as opposed to facts and logic. My life is infused with creativity, and if I feel like my imagination is being stepped on, I get grumpy. Happy Abby is Abby writing about her day in her journal, having three hour conversations about human existence, and slaving away for days over a kitchen stove or a crafts project to bring a smile to another person’s face. So when I talk with someone who is grounded in the concrete, who prefers work to introspection, who may be less attuned to the world of emotion with which I’m so intertwined and more in line with the rational side of life, I often become puzzled or frustrated as I try to figure out how to connect.
But I’ve been steadily working towards always remembering that everyone thinks in a different way, and if everyone was the same, life would be painfully boring. Learning about how each person interprets the world is a fascinating experience, and I’ve grown to love picking people’s brains to best understand perceptions and ideas that aren’t like mine. Embracing all of these different kinds of light makes you a more thoughtful, sensitive person, and it not only brings you more friends to love, but also challenges you to reevaluate yourself and develop new ways of going about your life.
Flexibility is fantastic, so again, allow yourself to be open to the rainbow of ways in which people process the world. The best conversations and friendships arise from where you can find connection in similarities and differences, where you see light even if it’s not a type of light you’re familiar with. Let it shine, let it radiate. You won’t be sorry.
4. Remember that YOU have divine light, too!
Namaste has two parts: the divine light in ME and the divine light in YOU. You should always look outward, recognizing that everyone and everything in the world has beauty if you have a gentle enough perspective, but you should never forget that YOU are part of this beautiful world; therefore, you too possess a wonderful kind of beauty. It doesn’t make you narcissistic to see beauty in yourself. Really.
Sometimes I just want to go up to people and start shaking them, screaming, “I F**KING LOVE YOU!!! YOU ARE AMAZING!!! WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT?!?!?!?!” (And, as my friends will tell you, I often do this, though usually I’m able to restrain myself from being too extreme.) Yes, everyone has flaws, but it makes me sad and mad and frustrated when people are ashamed, when they can’t see how freaking fantastic they are. I wish I could convince everyone I know how much he or she deserves to love himself or herself for exactly who he or she is.
Please, do me a favor and even when you feel scared or lonely or hopeless, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is light within you, and other people want to see and feel and love that light. Just like you give others a chance, give yourself a chance, too. Understand that in life, you will make mistakes, you will feel uncomfortable, you will sense the quirks in your personality and you may squirm, but don’t let that stop you from loving yourself. You are strong, you are courageous, you are gorgeous and radiant and held by others and this life itself. Let your light shine, because you beam, and you ROCK.
To especially my loved ones reading this, thank you all for being the most wonderful people in the world. Thank you for letting me ask you personal questions. Thank you for listening to my babbling philosophical meanderings. Thank you for talking with me about everything, because I love talking to you about everything. Thank you for sharing your beautiful light with me, because I feel so grateful for the beautiful light you exude every. Single. Day.