Monthly Archives: December 2016

“Nam-ma-stay”

by Danielle Tatik

In 2016, t-shirts reading “Nama-stay in Bed” and “Namaste Bitches” are a common occurrence all over California. The term “Namaste” (pronounced: Nam-ma-stay), has assimilated itself into modern western culture. Heard and overheard everywhere, from the local yoga studio to Soul Cycle classes. This term has become as cliche as it is popular. It denotes the spiritually conscious thinker akin to the stereotype paired with Prius drivers in 1999 and reusable eco friendly shopping bags in the early 2000’s. “Namaste” is almost as common as spending all day in yoga pants. Even people who don’t partake in this culture have heard the word before and can in some way identify what it might imply. The question I have is, does anybody really know what it means and where it came from?

Ask someone what “Namaste” means and you will most likely get something similar to the following responses: “The divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you”, “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and “peace”. These are all beautiful messages to be sending. If we all saw the love, peace, and light in each other as well as ourselves the world would absolutely be a more peaceful place. Prejudice, hate, elitism, and exclusion wouldn’t be an issue if we all saw the awesomeness we see in ourselves in others. It is highly possible these “spiritual hipsters” are on to something with the use of “Namaste”. However, before I boldly claim the power of Namaste to ignite a world peace movement, let’s examine the root of its origin.

Namaste translates directly from the Hindu religious tradition as “I bow to you”. It comes from the root word “nama” which is a verb meaning “to bow”. “Te” is the grammatical ending meaning “to” in the accusative form, adding up to “I bow to you”. “Nama” can further be broken down to “na-ma” or “not mine”, carrying the spiritual significance of reducing one’s ego. Therefore, “Namaste” is used when in prostration, and when paying homage to God. It is often accompanied by a slight bow of the head with hands in prayer at the center of the chest. “Namaste” has also assimilated itself into Hindu culture as a customary greeting. In this more causal use, it is a cultural courtesy with spiritual significance. The significance being, “the God in me is the same in all”. For this to make sense, it is important to understand the context. Hinduism is a religion and culture made up of many Gods and Demi-Gods possessing different qualities yet all stemming from the same source. Each family has a particular God they worship, bow to, and pray to daily. The point of this daily prayer is to diminish the ego and surrender to a higher power at work, God. By consistently doing this, good karma is built up leading you towards enlightenment, and until then giving you a sense of inner peace to share with those around you. Using “Namaste” as cultural courtesy in this context exemplifies the importance Hindu culture placed on accepting all forms God.

The context of “Namaste” is important because of its powerful religious meaning in Hindu culture.The culture of Hinduism as I have experienced it is one of a ritualized life. The daily and mundane become special and sacred through paying homage to God and reducing the ego. Using “Namaste” is essentially an assimilation of Hindu culture’s way of turning the mundane into sacred as well as acknowledging the spirituality in all beings.”Namaste” has paired itself seamlessly with the blossoming westernized yoga movement brining with it a sense of oneness, love, and ego free living. Knowing this, maybe it’s no too bold to wonder if “Namaste” can ignite a world peace movement. However, before you go tattooing “Namaste” on your body, make sure you agree with the religious context it carries. Before you replace “hello” with this spiritually relevant phrase when being friendly to a stranger, know that you are imposing on them a connection to an idea of God they might not agree with.

In 2016, t-shirts reading “Nama-stay in Bed” and “Namaste Bitches” are a common occurrence all over California. The term “Namaste” (pronounced: Nam-ma-stay), has assimilated itself into modern western culture. Heard and overheard everywhere, from the local yoga studio to Soul Cycle classes. This term has become as cliche as it is popular. It denotes the spiritually conscious thinker akin to the stereotype paired with Prius drivers in 1999 and reusable eco friendly shopping bags in the early 2000’s. “Namaste” is almost as common as spending all day in yoga pants. Even people who don’t partake in this culture have heard the word before and can in some way identify what it might imply. The question I have is, does anybody really know what it means and where it came from?

Ask someone what “Namaste” means and you will most likely get something similar to the following responses: “The divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you”, “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and “peace”. These are all beautiful messages to be sending. If we all saw the love, peace, and light in each other as well as ourselves the world would absolutely be a more peaceful place. Prejudice, hate, elitism, and exclusion wouldn’t be an issue if we all saw the awesomeness we see in ourselves in others. It is highly possible these “spiritual hipsters” are on to something with the use of “Namaste”. However, before I boldly claim the power of Namaste to ignite a world peace movement, let’s examine the root of its origin.

Namaste translates directly from the Hindu religious tradition as “I bow to you”. It comes from the root word “nama” which is a verb meaning “to bow”. “Te” is the grammatical ending meaning “to” in the accusative form, adding up to “I bow to you”. “Nama” can further be broken down to “na-ma” or “not mine”, carrying the spiritual significance of reducing one’s ego. Therefore, “Namaste” is used when in prostration, and when paying homage to God. It is often accompanied by a slight bow of the head with hands in prayer at the center of the chest. “Namaste” has also assimilated itself into Hindu culture as a customary greeting. In this more causal use, it is a cultural courtesy with spiritual significance. The significance being, “the God in me is the same in all”. For this to make sense, it is important to understand the context. Hinduism is a religion and culture made up of many Gods and Demi-Gods possessing different qualities yet all stemming from the same source. Each family has a particular God they worship, bow to, and pray to daily. The point of this daily prayer is to diminish the ego and surrender to a higher power at work, God. By consistently doing this, good karma is built up leading you towards enlightenment, and until then giving you a sense of inner peace to share with those around you. Using “Namaste” as cultural courtesy in this context exemplifies the importance Hindu culture placed on accepting all forms God.

The context of “Namaste” is important because of its powerful religious meaning in Hindu culture.The culture of Hinduism as I have experienced it is one of a ritualized life. The daily and mundane become special and sacred through paying homage to God and reducing the ego. Using “Namaste” is essentially an assimilation of Hindu culture’s way of turning the mundane into sacred as well as acknowledging the spirituality in all beings.”Namaste” has paired itself seamlessly with the blossoming westernized yoga movement brining with it a sense of oneness, love, and ego free living. Knowing this, maybe it’s no too bold to wonder if “Namaste” can ignite a world peace movement. However, before you go tattooing “Namaste” on your body, make sure you agree with the religious context it carries. Before you replace “hello” with this spiritually relevant phrase when being friendly to a stranger, know that you are imposing on them a connection to an idea of God they might not agree with.

Despite the religious implications of “Namaste”, it still can mean a simple “peace”, or hipster friendly “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and it can add meaning to your spiritually minded fitness lifestyle. This is possible because of the heavy western assimilation “Namaste” and yoga culture in general has gone through. I am not encouraging the end of the “Namaste” fad. Rather, I am encouraging you to be informed and Nama-stay in context when using such powerful phrase.

Despite the religious implications of “Namaste”, it still can mean a simple “peace”, or hipster friendly “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and it can add meaning to your spiritually minded fitness lifestyle. This is possible because of the heavy western assimilation “Namaste” and yoga culture in general has gone through. I am not encouraging the end of the “Namaste” fad. Rather, I am encouraging you to be informed and Nama-stay in context when using such powerful phrase.

Sprituality, Technology, Connection and the Buddhist ‘aesthetic’

by Ellie Grace

I’ve been wondering for a while about the connections between technology and spirituality, the obvious flagpole of which is the discussion on how damaging the effects of heavy computer use are on our mental and emotional wellbeing. The statistics don’t, on the whole, look good and most especially for young brains still in development. It’s said that the greater the amount of time spent engaging with online activities and technology, the greater the interruption to our sleep cycle (the light emitted from phone and computer screens is said to disrupt the activity of the pineal gland), and the less we’re able to nurture our empathic intelligence – the parts of ourselves that allow us to emotionally read others, make genuine connections through attentive listening, eye contact and the interpretation of body language in real time.

We’re told that the lives we live online are creating too large an identity gap between our sense of ourselves as perceived by others and the experience of ourselves as witnessed by our inner field. Essentially we’re looking so much at ourselves from the outside that we’re forgetting to look at ourselves from the inside.

All this is old hat, or so I thought. It was my understanding that everyone knew this stuff – that too much time spent gazing in to the bright white screen of the apple laptop was – of course!, obviously! – going to make you depressed. It turns out not everyone knows this. I was amazed when a good friend of mine who works as a digital creative turned to me recently and admitted that she thought she was depressed. She said, ‘I suddenly realised, standing in the middle of this party surrounded by my best friends, that they could see me. Like they could actually see me and that all this time until now all they’d seen – or all I’d perceived them as seeing of me – was my online self, like a hologram of me. It dawned on me in a way that moved me to deep, sobbing tears, that I was real for them, that I existed.’

It took some time for me to absorb what she was saying, so inverse was it to my way of regarding technology and what I see as an inauthentic tool for displaying ourselves to the world. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not disregarding technology or social media in their entirety and I have plenty of opinions on why I think both are connecting and valuable but what she said got me thinking further. Beyond what I think of as being a really sad state of affairs in terms of the sickness social media has inspired in self-perception, human connection and identity crisis, I also wonder how much value we can get from meditation apps and online yoga studios claiming to bring stillness into our extraordinarily busy lives.

Aside from the people for whom online classes are, quite possibly, life-saving: the ill or dying; the immobile; the many mothers who are house-bound and exhausted but for whom an opportunity to take 20 minutes to look after themselves while their baby sleeps… aside from these people, I do wonder whether the decision to sell a practice on a screen is just another way to capitalise on the boundless space of the internet and to corroborate what we’ve already bought into in our digital culture: that attention, action and satisfaction are to be found outside of ourselves at the click of a button.

I already find it hard enough to concentrate in my yoga studio in Venice, largely because I’m visually distracted by the clothing, mats, tattoos, music and bodies on display around me. I have to work hard to stay in my own body and with my own breath in order to have an internal experience of my practice. Most of the time, sadly, I don’t, and my practice has – despite very good teachers whose aim is to have their students rewarded from the internal experience – become something of a necessary physical stretchout that my body demands rather than a spiritually elevating one.

The subject got me wondering as well on Steve Jobs’ lifelong interest in Buddhism. The whole Apple design, functionality and aesthetic feels to me to be set up as if in reverence to the ineffable elegance, beauty and perfection of divinity itself. In fact the way that the products and the stores themselves are designed – like temples or cathedrals to modern innovation – communicates something of the spiritual vision I think Jobs possessed as a leader and trailblazer. There’s a clarity in the light of the screens, the way they shimmer as if illuminated by the celestial orb of some higher realm and power into action like the gliding images of our very own consciousness … it’s interesting to me how obviously this mimicry of human consciousness and supreme awareness is integrated with the visual rhetoric of spirituality in a computer interface. The parallels are there for all to see. We’re offered a ‘cloud’ in which to place all of our personal information, knowledge and data, much like the trust we must place in a guru. The cloud-guru will store everything it knows about you: both are omniscient. Once you place your knowledge and faith in the cloud-guru it’s not going to work if you take your information elsewhere – this operating system (of beliefs) is not compatible with another operating system. You must commit to cloudguru in order to reap the benefits of carefully meted-out rewards / guidance / new products. You will bow and express gratitude to both for being so very wise as to hold all of you at once and in return, the cloud-guru will give you expressive, creative, collaborative freedom and opportunity to fully realise and express who you are. The more you submit to cloud-guru, the more deeply integrated as a customer-disciple you become. There are degrees of accessibility to the cloud-guru too. The more money or time you can donate and bequeath to your cloud-guru, the more windows of opportunity and expression open to you, eventually opening up new levels of accessibility and functionality as you progress through the (operating) systems. If you don’t regularly clean out, burn up or cleanse your data / samskaras, your past will catch up with you, limit you, prevent you from enjoying a future free from suffering…

The analogies are fun to explore but underneath these little theories I’m imagining, Jobs did of course have a committed Zen practice. He designed the way his practice allowed him to think and observe his thoughts. His practice revealed to him the limitless skyscape of his mind, the thoughts just passing clouds. He fused form and function in such a way as to allow the object – the ipad, ipod or Macbook seem somehow inevitable, as if they had always-already existed and had merely been discovered by him and his team of designers. As Steve Silberman writes, ‘Apple devices, you might say, are sophisticated tools for evoking, supporting, and sustaining shoshin, beginner’s mind.’ [http://blogs.plos.org/neurotribes/2015/10/26/what-kind-of-buddhist-was-steve-jobs-really/] My question then is, if Jobs knew that the thinking mind and perceived reality was all illusory, was he ever in conflict about the commercial success of his ideas, or of the spiritual deficit so much time spent in front of one of his products causes?