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I like to watch the news for five or ten minutes while I get dressed in the morning. Mostly, I like to listen to the weather. I know I can get the forecast on my phone, but it’s just not the same. It’s conceivable that I have a somewhat bizarre attachment to my local meteorologist, but I digress.
This morning, as has been the case for weeks, I didn’t even get to hear the forecast. In fact, most of what I heard during those few minutes were political ads – every single one of them negative. Upon reflection, all these ads have done is left a negative image of all of the candidates – the ones being attacked and the ones doing the attacking. As far as name recognition, which is a huge reason people spend advertising dollars, these ads have done nothing with this voter but create a blur of confusion. I know I’ll be standing in the polling booth trying to remember something (anything!) about our local and state candidates and all I’m going to be able to come up with for any of them is YUCK.
There’s a lesson in here for all of us. When we throw mud at one another, we always (always) get splashed. On the other hand, when we’re good to one another – supporting, assisting, befriending, or just being kind – not only does the other person feel good, but we do too.
This is not always easy, by the way. A yoga practice can help. I could spend most of this essay describing for you how the self-awareness that you develop through a regular, mindful yoga practice is a powerful first step toward changing your behavior off the mat so that you’re living more like the person you want to be. I could spend next week’s essay talking about the somewhat mysterious way that yoga teaches us that we are all connected in this world – and if we’re all connected, we’d best build each other up rather than tear each other down. But I’m going to keep things simple instead. I’m going to focus on just one word:
The traditional greeting at the end of a yoga class, “Namaste,” is often translated as “the good or light in me bows to the same in you.” Isn’t that lovely? Imagine spending your day recognizing the good that you know is in yourself (a ready smile, a curious mind, a few talents, a kind heart) in each person you meet. Imagine looking into the eyes of each person you talk to – the clerk at the grocery store, the teller at the bank, your child’s teacher, your boss, the woman panhandling on your morning train – with the hope of somehow honoring the goodness and light you both share.
Namaste. More than a word or a greeting, “Namaste” can be a mindset. A beautifully open mindset which can free us from the small, tight, defensive and fearful feelings that come from suspecting that for someone else to be right, we must be wrong. If “their” political party wins, one of us must be wrong. If “their” religion differs from ours, one of us must be wrong. If “their” taste in take-out food or movies or television shows or board games or … is different than ours, one of us must be wrong. With “Namaste” as our guiding light, we can set aside this “us/them,” “in/out,” “right/wrong” thinking. Instead, we find ourselves looking for ways to connect, to honor and to learn.
I don’t know what a political campaign would be like if candidates were required to maintain a “Namaste” mindset. I suspect we would hear much more about what each believed, what each would like to do if elected, what legacy each would like to leave behind. I suspect watching the morning news in October and November of an election year would be much more inspiring, edifying and uplifting. I don’t know. What I do know is how transformative this mindset has been in my one small life. And I know it can be the same for each of you.
The light in me bows to the light in each of you.