Thousands of times I’ve placed my hands together to close a class, uttering namaste, yet my favorite place to consider the invocation is at the grocery store.
I recognize and bow to the divine in you.
I hope my yoga students know that I care about them, as individuals forming a collective whole. Yet it is a mindful cultivation of community when I pocket my phone and help with bagging groceries until I get my moment. Eye contact. Oh, hi!
I pointedly make eye contact in every human interaction I can. In the rear-view mirror with taxi drivers, with baristas at the café and strangers queued up with me in lines. I want to connect with them in small ways to lessen the distance between us, and to ease the collective ennui of our oxymoronic, hyper-connected yet individualistic culture.
Strangers never let me down.
When I make eye contact with them, even if I’m not smiling, they are likely to smile at me. Their smile in turn inspires my own smile. Eye contact is proven to have effects on the brain similar to receiving a gift, without requiring gift wrap or any money.
All it costs is the time to tune in to little habits that may be increasing the distance, and severing the connection, between ourselves and others.
Notice those habits to resist them, hold the gaze of the person in front of you, and be rewarded with reduced stress, lowered blood pressure, and (dare I suggest it?) a profundity that reminds us we are not alone. We are on this journey together, and we share experiences.
As yogis, we are encouraged to settle our gaze, or drishti, in order to focus our intentions and energy in our asana practice. What a wonderful way to realize our yoga, our “namaste” for the day, beyond our mats.