Sunday, September 25, 2016

Living Namaste

For the last few months, the phrase "Living Namaste" has been playing in my head.  I don't even think I heard it anywhere; I just started to feel like I was experiencing a phenomenon that seemed aptly named Living Namaste.

Namaste is a common greeting in India and it's pretty much always the last word of a yoga class.  A translation of its meaning is the light within me honors the light within you.  It's a word I've liked for a long time, and a word I started spontaneously saying when I'd see a beautiful little fox dead on the side of the road, or I'd pass a person in my car that looked sad or overwhelmed.

And lately, it's become almost like an addiction.  I'm not just finding myself spontaneously Namaste-ing when I see something troubling, but now I'm doing it when I see someone adorable or endearing or awkward or just interesting for one reason or another.  Then, there are those challenging Namaste moments, when I see someone being cruel or just completely out of step with my own values.  And strangely, I'm watching myself gravitate right to the center of those moments, thirsty to work this developing muscle.

And as I started reflecting on this Living Namaste phenomenon that's been taking me over, a book that I read several years ago came to mind: The Gentle Art of Blessing by Pierre Prandervand.  In this book, the author shares his own discovery and practice of blessing as an everyday art.

When I first started reading the book, life right away presented me with an opportunity to put it into practice.  A student came into my office one day and informed me that he'd gone to the administration to complain about me.  As he told me about my unfairness in grading, my adrenaline started to pump, and the knee jerk reaction to defend myself and point out his deficiencies started revving up.

But, instead of picking up my own sword and fighting back, I felt aware that I could choose to see his integrity, his goodness, his desire to connect and succeed.  I could see his blame as merely one small part of all he was bringing into my office, and I could honor and recognize how much more there was to him and to what he was saying.

As I sat quietly listening to him, I worked to just hold a loving space, to see him in the very best light that I possibly could.  I detected a little surprise from him that I was so calm, and the entire encounter was over so quickly.

The real surprise for me came as the semester continued.  I was astounded at how the behavior of this student shifted.  Prior to that meeting, my impression of him was that he was somewhat of a slacker, rather disengaged, and a little too arrogant to be receptive to learning.  After the meeting, I noticed that he engaged differently in class, and even more surprising, he regularly and humbly started coming to my office with questions and taking the necessary initiative to bring his own skills to the next level.

These subsequent visits to my office could've been awkward, even adversarial, but they weren't.  They were pleasant, and as a teacher, I felt fulfilled by how this student had shifted.  And even more, I had a chance to learn from and reflect on what caused his discontent.  By avoiding the temptation to defend myself, I had the opportunity to see where I could grow as a teacher.  He walked deeper into his role as a student, and I felt filled with ideas about how I could walk deeper into my role as a teacher.

Looking back, I feel like the book and that student episode planted a seed in me.  In the years since that time, I think this Living Namaste thing has sprouted from that seed, and it's honestly one of the most amazing discoveries I've ever made.  It feels wonderful when it really takes hold - a flowing forth that fills rather than depletes me.  And as I continue to go deeper, it really has me wondering whether these small and seemingly insignificant intentions we throw out into the world might just ripple greater impacts around us than we ever thought possible.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Peace Ticket

This morning, I reflected with my husband about 15 years ago on the morning of September 11th.  About how he was getting dressed with the tv on while our 4 month old was still in her crib, about how I had just arrived at my second day of my first job out of law school, about how scary and surreal it was to watch the images on tv, about how panicked I was on the ride home, about how we had no idea what would happen next and whether we might be at the beginning of a living hell.

And then, as I thought about all that has happened in the last 15 years, I felt deeply grateful for the ways that day made me realize how short and fragile our lives are, about all the ways it has pushed me to make the most of the time that I have.

And I felt heartbroken about how the fear generated on that day has shaped the world.  How the responses to what happened have unintentionally created September 11th experiences for people in other parts of the world.  How the fear has paved the way for widespread support of the use of killer drones and crossing more and more ethical boundaries on the treatment suspected terrorists or other prisoners.  How as a nation we have traveled so far from the unified and supportive feeling that was running high in the aftermath of that terrible day.

I fear that we've aggravated the very things that broke our hearts, and I feel with the entirety of my being that it is time for this chapter to end.  It is time that we really: Choose Peace.

United States of America, we need to call back that first word in our name and live up to it, and we can start the shift of the tides in this next presidential election.  We can choose a leader that does not want to continue all this fighting, at home or abroad.  One that will be focused on safety and defense and compassion for those whose homes are taken over by violence but will not continue the response of sending more weapons and violence into these war torn areas.  We can choose the leader that has the most support among our active military personnel.  We can choose a leader who wants to build bridges between Republicans and Democrats, not walls between us and our enemies.

We need to really ask ourselves and have the courage to act on the answer: who out of our options could possibly start us down a road to peace?  Both our mainstream candidates are looking to get a lot of votes that are just against the other candidate.  Could the win of either of those two candidates ever unify us?  Could the millions of people passionately opposed to that candidate ever come around?  I think we've seen enough to know the answer.

I've put a lot of time and thought into these questions, and I'll tell you that I have wholeheartedly come to the conclusion that Gary Johnson and Bill Weld are our best chance of turning this whole thing around.  I really believe they are the peace ticket in this 2016 presidential race. 

Johnson and Weld are high integrity human beings, with strong leadership resumes, and without the baggage of too much time in Washington DC.  I also see their Libertarian leaning platform as the only one under which a peaceful, diverse, and democratic society could sustain itself.  We all have such differing values, interests, and experiences.  A government that leaves room for us all to be as we are must be limited to its essential role, it must maximize our ability to pursue happiness in our own ways, it must both encourage and empower us to bring forth the best that we have to contribute.  I don't have a fantasy that electing them would be a magic wand that would give us a whole new government, but I strongly believe it would create common ground on which all these separated factions could begin to meet and cooperate.

Let's look through all this entertainment value and media sensationalism and place a higher value on authenticity, on honesty, on intelligence.  Let's pick leaders like we pick our friends, like we pick the people we trust with the most important aspects of our lives.  And let's listen to Stevie Wonder's advice from back in the 90s on picking a leader: "I want you to vote for that person who is going to commit to bringing unity to all people, not just throughout the world, but in this country."

People, please investigate Gary Johnson, Bill Weld, and these questions for yourself.  I really and truly believe he could start us down a path towards greater peace in both this country and throughout the world.  I believe that he will sincerely and selflessly dedicate his intelligence, his hard work, and his iron will (that got him to the top of the highest peak on each continent) to making this country better, to making us a better world citizen, and to helping us work together again.

I really think we need this and it is possible.  We just have the have the guts to vote our hope instead of our fear.