Fuckin’ namaste

I’ve heard it a million times–usually from some soccer mom with a New Age fetish who within half an hour of pretending to be a zen peace goddess will be roadraging down the highway screaming curses at people who don’t drive exactly the way she wants.

“Namaste.”

Hello? Goodbye? Is that “fuck off” in zen? Do the people using this word even know the origin?

I don’t actually believe that the people who use this word know what it means. In fact, I don’t know what it means, though I was frankly hoping it was something unexpectedly vulgar that would shock the pedicures off the people who have been using it thinking they’re saying something deeply profound. At least, I didn’t until I recently looked it up on Wikipedia, which was about the extent of the research I was willing to put into the issue.

Wikipedia says the following:

Namaste (/ˈnɑːməst/ nah-məs-tayHindi: [nəməsteː] ( )), sometimes expressed as Namaskar or Namaskaram, is a customary greeting when individuals meet or farewell.[2][3] It is a form of greeting commonly found among people of South Asia, in some Southeast Asian countries, and diaspora from these regions.[4][5] Namaste is spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest. This gesture is called Añjali Mudrā orPranamasana.[6] In Hinduism it means “I bow to the divine in you.”[4][7]

Namaste or namaskar is used as a respectful form of greeting, acknowledging and welcoming a relative, guest or stranger. It is used with good byes as well. It is typically spoken and simultaneously performed with palms touching gesture, but it may also be spoken without acting it out or performed wordlessly; all three carry the same meaning. This cultural practice of salutation and valediction originated in the Indian subcontinent.[8]

So now we know. And yes, it’s an obvious case of hyperbole for me to say I’ve heard it a million times, but considering the fact that it sends a shiver of rage and disgust through me pretty much every time, it certainly feels like a million. It’s because of this aversion that I’ve been reluctant to try yoga, which has, I feel, been appropriated by the same New Age types who think that dancing with dreamcatchers will make it rain and placing “healing crystals” on you will get rid of your cancer. I tend to think of myself as a tolerant person, but all of the above behaviors and beliefs make me grit my teeth and rage inside my head about the indignities of living in a society that forgives and even encourages ignorance of science.

This outrage spilled over a couple of weeks ago when I was looking up “pallasite” for my third novel. I was struggling to find any scientific information, wading through endless webpages of garbage about its healing properties and, long story short, wound up making the following post on Facebook:

Thank you New Age Nuts for making it impossible to do a simple Internet search on a particular stone or mineral without having to wade through a lot of faith healing mumbo jumbo. I think there needs to be one Internet for people who adhere to science and another for people who think that dancing makes it rain.

For someone who prides myself on being reasonably tolerant, this may not have been my finest hour, but the number of people who agreed with me and felt impatient with the celebration of baseless “healing” techniques surprised me. I realized that I am not alone. In fact, my boyfriend posted this image, which I plan on turning into a bumper sticker, to my Facebook wall:

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A week and a half ago my beloved gym where I take a high-impact boot camp class that keeps me from losing my shit and screaming at hippies for flooding the Internet with healing crystals, announced that it was significantly raising its rates, forcing me to go shopping for a new gym.

A friend suggested I try Kennedy Fitness, where I acquired a free four-class pass to try it out. My first impressions, besides the fact that the atmosphere strikes me as that of a smug shopping mall, was to be impressed by the frequency and variation of their classes. I decided to try a completely different class each of the four days, starting with yoga on Monday.

I had to buy a yoga mat, which wasn’t as unpleasant as I thought it would be, but it still annoyed me to have to pay money for something when I could just as easily strike weird poses on the floor. This isn’t so much a fiscally conservative gripe as it is a gripe about toughness. At my old gym, I did my workouts on the scratchy fake grass surface that irritated my elbows. Why? Because workouts are supposed to be physically uncomfortable. Call me old-fashioned, but I do subscribe to the no pain, no gain philosophy of working out.

Of course, the fact that a supposedly-calming, relaxed method of exercise might be good for an intense A-type personality nutjob who finds it difficult to relax and impossible to silence her brain was not lost on me. Maybe yoga would help me achieve some kind of inner peace … but even if it did, I vowed I’d never change my tune on namaste and healing crystals.

And honestly, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It’s true that I looked about as graceful as a wind-up doll caught in a windmill. And all the poses still sound like “lotus tree flower monkey warrior cherry pie” which made for a lot of confusion and staring desperately at the instructor when my head was supposed to be down. But it actually made me sweat. In fact, it made me sweat without leaving me sore the following day, which is a small miracle. But there were no snarky comments about my lack of flexibility and grace–besides those running constantly through my own head–and the instructor only said “namaste” once at the very end when I was already putting on my shoes and too tired from the workout to try to run her over with a Pilates ball.

And there was a moment at the end, when the instructor told us to just lay on our mats for five minutes and breathe. While I don’t see the big deal about trying to make an art form out of breathing–something everyone does every day, big deal–it was kind of nice to take five minutes out of the day and rest in a quiet, peaceful room. No writers asking why they have to meet deadlines. No cats screaming at me for food. No other drivers making weird turns without any turn signal. No billboards trying to sell me anything. Nothing.

In fact, it made me seriously consider opening a workout studio in which people just come and lay on mats for an hour. And then maybe at the end I’ll serve them pie or cupcakes. And just before they leave, I’ll smile sweetly and bid them “fuckin’ namaste,” before hopping in my car and screaming imprecations at the guy who cuts me off on my way home.

 

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Comments

  1. I will join your gym, and I will lay on your mats, and I will eat your pie. I will even return the fuckin’ namaste.

  2. If it makes you feel any fuckin’ better, the kids in Nepal will run by and yell what sounds like ” ‘stay’ ” in greeting. I not only know wtf it means but lived in the f’ing 3rd world country for months to adopt my daughter. Sounds to me like you are suffering from a FFWP (f’ing first world problem.)

    • I would contend most people living in first world countries suffer from first world problems (though obviously not all since there is sadly plenty of poverty everywhere however well off the country is as a whole). That doesn’t seem to stop many people from blogging about their experiences, and I’ve never pretended that my problems were anything approximating life-threatening. It’s cool that you adopted a kid from another country. The fact that you use that to try to wield some kind of superiority over other bloggers trying to make a humorous post is a little sad, but hey, taking offense at another blogger’s post is yet another first world problem, isn’t it?

      • I saw it offensive, as making fun of another culture. Yes, the expression may be overused, but there are some people that use it as part of their heritage and culture who read the blogs. I do not consider that a sign or play for superiority.
        You know nothing about me, my experiences in Nepal, or any of my involvement with the disenfranchised in this country or developing countries.
        Your last sentence does not follow to a logical conclusion, but a defensive one.

      • Then you missed the point. I am mocking people who culturally appropriate a single word in a foreign language, not knowing what it means, and then run around using that word in the suburbs while pretending it gives them some kind of spiritual enlightenment. I would never and have never mocked someone for learning a foreign language or visiting a foreign country. In fact, a good chunk of this blog is dedicated to travel, including encouraging people to try to learn as much of a foreign language as possible before they travel. For you to say that I know nothing about you is absolutely true. But you’re the one who came to my blog and decided to be offended about a humorous post, and I’m using the information you provided in your little rant about first world problems. You clearly completely missed the point I was trying to make–particularly the target of my rant–and decided to take it as a personal attack on people from a different culture when this is clearly about cultural appropriation. That’s fine. But it’s always a good idea to read carefully before taking offense at something. I suppose you’d also view it as an insult of Chinese culture when I had a line in a blog about people who get tattoos with words in foreign languages that they don’t speak, like the Chinese character tattoo fad? I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but you assumed the worst about me by completely misconstruing something I wrote because. frankly, I suspect you were looking for something to be offended about.

      • Actually, I find it rather humorous when people have foreign symbol tattoos that are actually inappropriate words – because they have no knowledge of the language.
        Namaste

  3. I’m crying into my tea. Not a new age nut job tea, just a bog standard brit tea. My first experience of what I thought was a sports massage was actually a healing massage. If I had known there were going to be healing stones and smoking sticks to make me feel more at peace with myself I would have warned the poor lady in the white coat to just put the oils down and let me out of there, because that kind of nonsense winds me up and would in no way be relaxing or healing. Hahaha!! Fuckin namaste hahahaha

    • That happened to me once too! Except that she was more poking my back than massaging me and she kept insisting that I shouldn’t eat mushrooms because it would produce a fungus in my brain. It was supposed to be a pre-traveling way to relax, but I wound up more tense and angry than I had been before. Glad there are others who have been there though!

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