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.

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