The Opposite of Namaste

Ann Arbor Sunset

Last night, I watched this video about Trump’s violent approach. The clips disgusted me, enraged me, and made me feel something violent bordering on hate.

First, I have to say how much I hate hate. I used to think this was an appropriate response, but I now understand it only reveals how complex and deep the emotion runs.

Hatred is what helps us dehumanize others. Dehumanizing is a way to disconnect from another person or being. We do this, because it’s a lot easier to hurt or kill another remorselessly when we don’t empathize with them. If instead we see an enemy as just another wounded, breathing human being like ourselves, then it hurts to hurt them.

Hating hate only reminds me that I’m not above it. I wish I could be. Being human is hard. And as far as I can tell, hatred is a human response that comes from hurt and fear. In this particular instance of watching Trump videos, I know I’m hurt and afraid to see a violent, angry man encouraging violent, angry masses.

***

I’ve been working with a shamanic practitioner. She says if anything bothers you more than a 2 or 3, on a scale from 1-10, then it reveals an area that requires more self-work. This relates to a lot of Carl Jung’s work about “shadow features.” He claimed that anytime a person—or a particular characteristic in a person—upsets us, it is because they are reflecting something about ourselves that we either: a) don’t like or b) deny and repress altogether.

***

I once had a conversation with Laura Newbern, a beloved mentor of mine. She has a delightful poetry collection called Love and the Eye. I asked her about the title, and she said how loving someone means seeing them, really seeing them. I agree. It sounds simple, but it is challenging. It requires self-awareness and humility. In order to minimize (and ideally eliminate) the projections we carry—the ones that cause us to see someone as we think they are instead of who they actually are—we have to acknowledge that we see the world and others through our projections in the first place. This is ultimately admitting that you see some things distorted or incorrectly.

***

Every yoga class ends with a bow and the word Namaste. While it’s not the literal translation, I’ve heard namaste explained as something along the lines of I see the light in you is the light in me, acknowledging our interconnectedness and connection to the divine. I sometimes think of it as similar to the line I see you from the movie Avatar. The characters say I see you to one another as a form of acknowledgement and respect.

***

Carl Jung wrote, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” That means we can’t eliminate darkness by pretending it’s not there.

***

Part of me feels shame when I catch myself hating something or someone. My first instinct is to stuff it down, repress it, and pretend it didn’t happen. That way I can pretend “hate is for bad people” and think of myself as good. To admit that I’m capable of the same feeling that leads to extreme violence reminds me that hateful people are people too. When I remember that, I can’t really hate them. But such compassion requires slowing down for me to realize that, and slowing down is hard.

***

While watching Rachel Maddow point out the absurdity of Trump’s link to violence, I realized that acknowledging my own feelings of hate is actually what helps me combat hatred. In acknowledging my own hatred, I understand the unruliness of such a destructive emotion, and it helps me better empathize with the haters.

This got me thinking about how the opposite of namaste might be best understood with a bit of math magic. In math, a negative times a negative number equals a positive one. If I recognize the darkness in you as the same darkness in me, does that equal more light?

***

Maybe this sounds too easy or overly simplistic. Maybe this sounds too hard and soft at the same time. It doesn’t really matter how it sounds. What matters is that we acknowledge that hate has power in all of our lives. We either consciously give it power, surrendering to its violence, or we subconsciously give it power by denying it. I think reducing the power of hate in our psyches depends on our ability to see it for what it is. And to see something as it is is to love it. So the cure for hate is Love? How obvious and infantile to say. Yet, I don’t think I understood the sophistication of that idea until recently, and it’s one that continues to amaze me.

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3 thoughts on “The Opposite of Namaste”

  1. I am by no means a practitioner of yoga but I retained from somewhere the loose definition of namste was something like “the light in me recgonizes the light in you”. I was meditating on the notion and found myself wondering if there was an antonym for namaste, or a philosophy regarding the opposite. My Google rabbit hole lead me to your post and I felt compelled to leave a comment.

    Thank you for the insightful post. It is always nice to know there are others following similar paths of thought.

    Namaste. ✌❤😊

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