I am part of the community at Yogamaya where we close each yoga class by saying “Namaste.” Of its many translations, “the light in me recognizes the light in you” resonates most deeply with me. That’s why in my first conversation with Erica Nicole Griffin, just after the election, she proved quotable: “The new namaste is the ego in me recognizes the ego in you.” It encapsulated the seismic shift I felt. I thought more people were recognizing the universal human spark in one other, but instead, people unleashed a more destructive flame that divides us.
Normally, in a professional context, neither Erica nor I would talk politics, but nothing felt normal about politics in 2016 (or now, as we approach Trump’s inauguration and presidency).
Through my yoga practice, I try to dismantle my ego so that I can more clearly see the light within me and all human beings. Some days, I disengage from my ego and experience clarity, humility, and connection. But as soon as I grasp for more, my ego surges; it resists, fights, and bargains. My ego feels familiar and comforting. It assures me that I need it to be strong and protected, like gold plating. However, the golden glow of ego makes it more difficult to discern the soul light summoned by “namaste.” Each day, I return to the mat to practice, accepting that in some moments, it feels like a battle and in other moments, bliss.
Likewise, the bruised and battered collective ego of many American voters who felt forgotten, emerges with new fight in it. Chest-puffing, spittle, and much worse accompany violent words and breathes life into the ego of the patriarchy. Are Americans (men and women alike) grasping for traditional notions of manhood and “the good, old days” when white men dominated those perceived to have less power? I understand why some admire the trumpian way of projecting strength in the face of any perceived opposition. Sometimes I want to strongarm my ego and quell its resistance. Ultimately, this approach propagates violence and feeds the ego. The ego grows darkly, infuses fear, and breeds violence.
To break the cycle of violence, I look to a strong and peaceful man we celebrate each January. The words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. illuminate:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
I wholeheartedly reject this “new namaste” in favor of disengaging ego--my own and the collective--to reveal the light within us all. Perhaps approaching ego with curiosity will illuminate light and love.
This January, in a month when we set resolutions for 2017, celebrate MLK Day, and inaugurate the next president of the United States, I offer "namaste" as an invitation to embrace light and love.