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January 27, 2006



Namaste is an ancient Sanskrit word. It's how people greet each other in India. It's pronounced na-ma-stay; na as in napkin; ma as in man. Literally it means something similar to, "I bow to you in reverential salutation." There are many different ways of trying to convey its meaning, and I'd like to try this way:

When people say namaste they often hold their hands together, palms touching, in front of their heart. This is symbolic of bringing the awareness into the central energy channel that passes up through the body just in front of the spine. This is the channel through which we descended upon conception and will ascend through at death. The Psalmist refers to this channel as "the valley of the shadow of death" [1] which he or she seems to have experienced through practicing dying, probably by using some form of esoteric exercise. The psalmist was probably a Jewish Kabbalist.

The hands point upwards at the heart representing the focusing of all desires on the highest goal: the love of All; the love of One. The fingers point to the top of the channel at the crown the head: the Origin and the Destination, the Source and the Sea, the Alpha and the Omega.

When I say namaste to you, I look into your eyes, and I try to open myself to the idea that your highest potential is looking at me through those eyes; that an unconditionally loving, completely benevolent witness is observing me. This is also my highest potential; they are one and the same. If I am blessed then I see who you are: a buddha. And this brings tears to my eyes, both then and now. So when two people greet each other like this, it is pure love greeting itself, and there is nothing sweeter than that.

A few years ago I listened to a talk by David Whyte. Whyte is a British poet who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He told the story of a poem of his that I'll share with you in a moment. I'll recount that story from my memory first:

Whyte was trekking in the Himalayas when he came to an old, ropey-looking bridge over a deep chasm. It looked as if the bridge was broken and that it wouldn't hold his weight. It would take him many days to backtrack and reach the place, on the other side of the bridge, where he had arranged to meet his companions.

He just sat down on a rock not knowing what to do. Just then, an old lady came around the corner carrying a very large basket of dung on her shoulders. She was collecting dung to burn for heat. She stooped under the weight, and she was looking at the ground only a few feet in front of her. As his big-old boots came into her view, a smile spread across her face. She looked up at him, and beaming with love, said "namaste". Then she just stepped out onto the bridge and walked across it. So then he got up and followed her. He must have lived because here's the poem that he wrote about it. I think it's called The Old Interior Angel:

One day the hero
sits down,
afraid to take
another step,
and the old interior angel
limps slowly in
with her no-nonsense
compassion and her old secret and goes ahead.
"Namaste" you say
and follow.

When all the heroic efforts are done, there comes a time when you just need that wise old female power to come through and do its thing.

By the way, I love how Whyte reads poetry. He repeats certain lines and phrases again and again, his voice trembling with the feeling of his heart. In the same talk he read Wild Geese by Mary Oliver. He read over and over the first words of the fourth line of the first paragraph: "You only, you only ... you only, you only" his voice trembling, emphasizing the word "only" with great emotion. He then completed it: "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." And then repeating it again, "You only, you only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves." his voice drifting almost into a whisper.

The Old Interior Angel is available in a book by David Whyte called Fire in the Earth

[1] Psalm 23:4, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." It's so nice to read that again. That whole psalm is so sweet.

Copyright notice: I have not asked David Whyte for permission to publish this article. I have not been able to contact him. I will continue to try to contact him to ask for his permission. The copyright to his work belongs to him and I sincerely hope that he will not feel that I have misrepresented him. I hope that this will help to spread his light and perhaps also bring him additional wealth.

"Yes, yes and YES ... Namaste Duncan!" — Barbara


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