Namaste, bitches. That’s what the title to this post means, sort of. The term Namaste has multiple translations, all which basically amount to telling other human souls that you honor and respect their human souls.
And today I want to talk about how I don’t always honor and respect other human souls, and it’s a terrible thing, but it also happens to be terribly human.
Really, you guys.
Sometimes I am so jealous of the goodness and open hearts and creative expressions I see beaming out of other people that I find myself wondering why my light doesn’t shine in the same way or as bright or reach as far as the light emanating from the people I admire. And while this type of jealousy is so very normal and so very human, it’s important to remember that your own light is shining out to others in ways you may not see. Let me tell you a story.
One day, not so long ago, I was walking into a hot yoga class.
Now, to really set the stage, it is necessary to mention how heightened my level of anxiety had been leading up to this day. We’re talking multiple panic attacks on an almost weekly basis due to some issues I was having adjusting to the one million life changes I had made. I felt completely untethered, like I was floating in space and couldn’t find one single fucking star to guide me. My therapist taught me that people most often develop phobias during times of huge life changes, for example, selling a home and moving, ending a relationship, getting a new job, changing lifestyle routines such as quitting smoking or drinking- all of which I had done within a span of five months. So while I didn’t develop a full-blown phobia of anything, my stressed out brain decided to latch onto and magnify every little fear I had. Here are a few things I became afraid of:
- Hiking in an area too high above sea level because my anxiety told me I might run out of oxygen and die.
- Riding in an airplane because the air was too thin and I might run out of oxygen and die.
- Taking medication because my anxiety told me I might be allergic to an antibiotic and go into anaphylactic shock and, subsequently, run out of oxygen and die.
Yes, I was (am) extremely afraid of running out of oxygen and the resultant death that may occur. This is likely due to the fact that these days I often feel as though I am metaphorically running out of oxygen in my life. Whatever. That’s not the point of this post but now I feel compelled to talk more about it, but later.
The point is, I was going fucking crazy AKA experiencing my somewhat inconceivable propensity to backslide into the swampy mess of mental health issues at a moment’s notice. And it sucked. And since practicing yoga has always made me feel empowered and strong and capable, it was natural for me to turn to it in an attempt to root out my fear and anxiety and cope with the shitty feelings I was feeling.
So. There I am, walking down the sidewalk, mat slung over my shoulder, anxious but convinced I was about to be cured, when I noticed a man walking about twenty feet ahead of me. I noticed him because he was smoking a cigarette, and since I had recently quit, my reaction to the smell or sight of that smoky goodness solicited an almost salacious response from my very nervous nervous system. I started biting my nails and reminding myself that I was way healthier than this dude now that I don’t smoke and how much ass I was about to kick in class. And then, naturally, he flicked his cigarette out on the sidewalk and WALKED INTO THE FUCKING STUDIO.
In this moment, never in my life had I felt more certain that the Universe was sending me a sign that I should not have quit smoking, because yes, I often fabricated reasons to suggest the divine light at the core of all of humanity wanted me to continue smoking, reasons such as, smoking makes me happy and doesn’t the Universe want me to be happy or today is Tuesday. So I decided I would buy a pack at the cigar bar around the corner on my way out of class.
A few minutes later, sitting on my mat, waiting for everyone to settle into their spaces, I felt my pulse and started doubting my decision to engage in a physical activity that intentionally raises blood pressure, as my anxiety had a habit of convincing me I would pass out and die if my heart started beating too fast.
But it was too late.
I was right in the middle of the room, the heaters were heating away and everyone was breathing and focused and ready to go. Leaving the practice would mean walking around and between what felt like at least 372 other people, interrupting or distracting them from their practice which would result in them thinking about how much of a weird loser I was and when I opened the door it would let in the cool air and ruin everything for everyone everywhere and I would have no choice but to pack all my belongings into my car, drive to Mexico, take a plane directly to Antarctica somehow from the Puerto Vallarta International Airport and live out the rest of my days dying a slow and painful shame-induced death.
So I stayed.
And I knew I was going to survive because, just a few feet from me, there was a man who had just smoked a cigarette two minutes before positioning himself with his head south of his heart in an eighty degree room.
In my state of anxiety I was not able to calmly explain to myself that my fear of death was exaggerated and irrational in this setting.
In my state of anxiety I was not able to escape into a meditative place of peace and serenity.
But in my state of anxiety, I could look at the man a few feet from me, moving with grace and certainty through a vinyasa flow, whose lungs had just been filled to the brim with noxious chemicals minutes beforehand, and know that I was going to be okay too. My lungs were clear and open. I could breathe.
So, in conclusion, the light shining out of this man came in the form of a fucking cigarette, you guys. A fucking cigarette, lit up and flicked on the sidewalk SHONE LIGHT INTO MY SOUL.
Which sounds stupid.
Because it is.
It is stupidly human, which I feel okay about.
Our humanness gives us the ability to ascribe meaning to people, places and events, to believe in bigger things, and most importantly, it allows us to recognize the humanness of others reflected in ourselves. I think it’s important to remember that the light we see in other humans comes from their very humanness; the light we see in others is the same kind of light we all possess; our light, our souls, our connection to the divine (whatever you want to call it) exists BECAUSE of our humanness, not despite it.
Let’s all keep being stupid, shining humans.
and especially right now,