Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Meaning of "Namaste"

What does "Namaste" mean? My yoga teacher says it every week after our practice and I've always wanted to know.

—Rita Geno

Aadil Palkhivala's reply:

The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in one by the soul in another. "Nama" means bow, "as" means I, and "te" means you. Therefore, Namaste literally means "bow me you" or "I bow to you."

To perform Namaste, we place the hands together at the heart charka, close the eyes, and bow the head. It can also be done by placing the hands together in front of the third eye, bowing the head, and then bringing the hands down to the heart. This is an especially deep form of respect. Although in the West the word "Namaste" is usually spoken in conjunction with the gesture, in India, it is understood that the gesture itself signifies Namaste, and therefore, it is unnecessary to say the word while bowing.

We bring the hands together at the heart chakra to increase the flow of Divine love. Bowing the head and closing the eyes helps the mind surrender to the Divine in the heart. One can do Namaste to oneself as a meditation technique to go deeper inside the heart chakra; when done with someone else, it is also a beautiful, albeit quick, meditation.

For a teacher and student, Namaste allows two individuals to come together energetically to a place of connection and timelessness, free from the bonds of ego-connection. If it is done with deep feeling in the heart and with the mind surrendered, a deep union of spirits can blossom.

Ideally, Namaste should be done both at the beginning and at the end of class. Usually, it is done at the end of class because the mind is less active and the energy in the room is more peaceful. The teacher initiates Namaste as a symbol of gratitude and respect toward her students and her own teachers and in return invites the students to connect with their lineage, thereby allowing the truth to flow—the truth that we are all one when we live from the heart.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Skip the Baggage Claim

The Indian holy man Sathya Sai Baba often tells his students, "Travel light. Arrive quickly." This applies to both spiritual and physical journeying. Pack only what you'll need. I love the freedom of taking just a compact carry-on bag designed to accommodate enough for a week away, so I can avoid waiting at the baggage claim. On the other hand, greed is nowhere more apparent than in people trying to get anything short of a steamer trunk to count as a carry-on. Respect your traveling colleagues by packing conservatively, or checking your bags.

Remember greedlessness, too, in those ubiquitous airport shops. Many airports have become shopping malls with metal detectors. Anything you buy there is sure to cost more than the same item elsewhere—if you'd buy it elsewhere at all. Ask yourself before you acquire that souvenir, "Do I want to pay for this, lug it, repack it, and take care of it when I get home?" If not, pass.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Yamas and Niyamas of Travel

It's natural to harbor dreams of perfection when you travel, because you've invested time, money, and effort. But when the inevitable mishap occurs—missing a connecting flight, getting sick, being stranded without a hotel reservation—yoga philosophy can help.

So what would Patanjali do? He'd probably remember the second of the eight limbs of classical yoga, the niyamas (observances). Cultivating two of the niyamas in particular, Ishvara pranidhana (the practice of surrender) and samtosha (contentment), can help remind you that oftentimes, the joy is in the journey, whatever unexpected form it may take.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Hong Kong Flooded After Worst Rain in 124 Years

Today residents in Hong Kong woke up to find over half their city under water, having received its worst rain in over 124 years.

hk-flood01 Hong Kong Flooded After Worst Rain in 124 Years picture

The rain was so bad that over 8,000 lighting strikes were recorded and at one point over 5.7 inches of rain fell in a single hour, a record high since 1884. The nonstop rain also caused numerous mud slides, like the one below, that poured onto highways and trapping vehicles.

hk-flood-freeway Hong Kong Flooded After Worst Rain in 124 Years picture

The airport freeway was completely flooded, and over 400 flights were delayed or cancelled.

hk-flood-airport Hong Kong Flooded After Worst Rain in 124 Years picture

Flooded stores were forced to watch their products float away or get ruined by the water.

hk-flood02 Hong Kong Flooded After Worst Rain in 124 Years picture

Many residents, like the girl below, found themselves trapped waist deep in the floods.

hk-flood05 Hong Kong Flooded After Worst Rain in 124 Years picture

The raging water was so dangerous, policemen had to use ropes to help locals cross the street.

hk-flood-passinger02 Hong Kong Flooded After Worst Rain in 124 Years picture

The forecast shows that the rain should die down in the next few days but until it does, residents in Hong Kong are in for a long wet weekend.