If you’re a fan of the film Avatar, then you recognize the greeting of the Na’vi. “I see you” was both a literal acknowledgment — I see you standing before me — and a spiritual one — I see your heart with a seeing that is also knowing.
The Maori people of New Zealand practice a traditional greeting known as the hongi. When two people meet, they press their noses and foreheads together. It is the literal act of the breath of life being exchanged as a symbol of unity. This greeting may be performed by both Maori and non-Maori. You are welcome to participate in a hongi greeting with no fear of unintentional cultural appropriation. For the Maori, unity can only be unity if all are included.
In Malaysia, there is a particularly lovely greeting. You take the other person’s hands in yours for a moment, then release their hands and bring your own hands to your heart while nodding slightly to symbolize meeting with open hearts and in good faith. It would, of course, be considered polite for the other person to do the same.
Many Asian countries greet others with a bow. In India, you take on the posture of the anjali mudra, or prayer hands in front of your heart, and you say “Namaste” as you bow. Namaste literally means “I bow to you.” The Indologist Stephen Phillips suggests the essential meaning as it is practiced is “salutations to the divine child in your heart.” Namaste is a bow of recognition, a bow of acknowledgment, just as the Malaysian heart-hands, the Maori hongi, and even the fictional Na’vi “I see you” are all something more than a simple “hello.”
This acknowledgment, being seen, is something we all desire, and beyond that even, something we all need. It is comforting, affirming, and empowering when we feel seen by others.
But when was the last time you were seen by you?
Sometimes acknowledgment from others doesn’t come. Perhaps your life has become rather insular and the encounters with others who might see you as a whole and valuable person have become rare. Or perhaps you do experience acknowledgment from others, but it doesn’t seem to be quite enough. There is still a void in you that cries out to be seen. What we seek from others is often an indication of what we withhold from ourselves.
Brene Brown said, “Talk to yourself the way you would talk to someone you love.” This is simple advice, but the kind of wisdom that can change everything if we put it into practice.
The act of fully acknowledging yourself, spending the time to talk to you as if you were someone you loved, might need to begin with a greeting.
You can make that look however you need to, of course, but here’s a suggestion, in case it helps. I recommend taking time with each step:
- Stand in front of a mirror.
- Make prayer hands.
- Lean forward slightly in a bow until your forehead and nose touch the mirror.
- Take two or three breaths, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. Feel your own warm breath bouncing off the mirror and returning to you.
- Lean back and put your hands one on top of the other over your heart.
- Speak these words out loud to the person in the mirror: “I see you, divine child of my heart. Namaste.”
Whatever happens from there, let it happen. You might cry. Let yourself cry. You might feel compelled to say words of affirmation or comfort. Speak them. You might just want to continue staring into your own eyes. Then do so.
It’s possible even that nothing will happen. You may have no real reaction. But at the very least, you’ll know you were seen. I hope it was by someone who loves you.