In yoga we often hear the word "Namaste". Have you ever wondered why but didn't want to ask because you have been saying it for so long and you didn't want to look foolish? What does it mean? How do you even pronounce the word?
Namaste. Nam-ah-stay. More or less anyway. I have a terrible ear for foreign words and a worse tongue for pronunciation. Scholars will always correct me but for us living in the West, Nam-ah-stay is pretty darned close. Say it with me, Nam-ah-stay. Whew, you said it. Step one, check! So what does it mean?
Yoga came from the East. In it's original form it was seated postures and mediation (practiced only by men), and very different than our power yoga and the newer rage yoga where folks are encouraged to yell obscenities while sweating and listening to blaring heavy metal music. Yoga had more to do with the spiritual nature. Finding stillness in both the body and in the mind. There is a belief that we all come from the same "pool" or "light" of energy. The same place where we will return when our physical bodies no longer serve us. We all come from that same collective divine light. It is said that when we are born that we each have a little bit of that light within each of us. Therefore, when we say "Namaste" it is to say that "The same light that resides inside of me recognizes and bows to the same light that resides within you." Wow, I know, right?!
So what is that light? I will save that for another topic but for now let's just say that the light, the divine light, within each of us represents the soul. The soul is pure. The soul is our higher self. It is not our ego. It is calm and pure. It cannot be created nor destroyed. It just is. So the "I-consciousness" or the "ego" is what we identify with. This is what makes us "me". "I" want ice cream. "I" want a better job. "I" want to do a perfect handstand. The light within does not want those things. It just is. It is what connects each of us to one another.
In our studio window standing tirelessly, in tree pose, day in and day out is Jane. Jane is named after a very dear friend of mine who one rainy and cold day in January picked me up at the Falls Church metro station in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. and said to me, "I have something to tell you and I wanted to pick you up to tell you in person before we get back to my house." Jane is many things, but dramatic is not one of them, so I froze. The wiper blades seemed to be getting louder and moving more rapidly. The rain seemed to be coming down exponentially harder. We sat in her parked Prius and she turned to me and said, "I'm probably going to, maybe, probably am going to die."
Fast forward. I was visiting Jane in at the American Cancer Society AstraZeneca Hope Lodge Center in Boston, MA to help take her via the shuttle bus to Mass General for her radiation treatments. She had pancreatic cancer and had already been through chemotherapy and was determined to fight. I visited her four times during her radiation treatment and one of those nights as we were settled in to our twin beds separated by a cluttered night stand we started talking about what happens when...well, after.
It was a logical and philosophical conversation and rather helpful, for me anyway as I was still young in my yoga journey. We discussed many theories but eventually agreed that the first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, made the most sense. We settled upon that as what happens to us when we die. Our bodies are temporary, the ego is created to enable us to survive in this physical world, but our soul, our energy goes back to the place from where we once came, that is the universal one-ness.
I am not me. I am greater than that but because my physical body is hungry, tired, happy, or sick I identify with that. It is much more difficult to connect to the deeper self, the soul.
Jane passed away on November 13, 2016 but her light lives on within me. Her body failed but she is not gone, she is just no longer "her". Although one day I will no longer be "me", the light that resides in me is the same light that resides in each of you. Namaste.