At that time I was backpacking in Nepal, hiking the rocky trails high in the mountains. I met many people during my travels, but the brief interaction with this elderly woman stuck in my memory because of the pure presence and reverence she showed me in that simple greeting.
There was no artifice, no hiding, simply a profoundly generous and authentic acknowledgment of the divine light within me, honoured and witnessed by the divine light within her.
Think about that for a moment. How often do you greet someone without even really seeing them? Let alone honouring them as a unique and sacred expression of divine light! Why is that?
My theory is that we don’t see others that way because we don’t see ourselves that way. When I say ‘we’, I mean most of us in the Western world, who live in an environment of competitive, capitalist culture. We are not brought up to truly honour ourselves or others, and tend to perceive the concept of honour as a relic of another age.
The word ‘honour’ does not often appear in our vocabulary, except in traditional wedding vows, academic qualifications, or used in a nationalistic, military context: ‘He brought honour to his country.’ We may have been made uncomfortably aware of the word in more recent times through the disturbing news of ‘honour killings’ by Islamic extremists, where the reputation of a religion, culture or family is deemed to have been tarnished by the behaviour of an individual and so the worst kind of punishment is meted out.
This is certainly not the type of honour that I experienced in that momentary, yet deeply sacred, blessing so many years ago.
Roots Of Respect
The etymology of the word ‘honour’ is ‘to respect, esteem, revere, welcome’. How can we reclaim these qualities for ourselves and others in our modern lives? What would it mean to truly honour each and every person as holy, sacred, and deeply worthy of our love, respect and reverence? And to honour ourselves in the same way?
I wonder what would change in your life if you woke up every day, looked in the mirror and bowed in deep respect to the divine being that gazed back out at you. If you glanced across the breakfast table and marvelled at the sacred presence of your partner or child, feeling blessed by the privilege of spending another day with this glorious creation.
What would change if each of us took every step with deep reverence for the ground beneath our feet, honouring the planet that continually sustains us despite our thoughtless, destructive treatment of her?
Would our days feel different if we bowed each day to the sunrise, never taking its light and warmth for granted, or if we turned our faces to the rain, with every pore offering up a prayer of thanks?
Bowing To The Miracle Of Life
Gratitude is intimately entwined with honour. It is a recognition of the glory that resides in every natural creation, the blessing that is offered through the sheer miracle of its existence. You are one of these miracles, and to honour yourself every day is to recognise the blessing that life is bestowing through the light of your unique being.
When we bow, we bring our heads to our hearts. We step out of the mental activity of our minds, out of our controlling egos, into the realm of feeling, surrendering into the sweetness of praise and devotion. Offering our blessing and gratitude to all that blesses us. There is an awe and wonder to this experience that transcends anything we can acquire in this physical life. Perhaps if we can remember this, we can transform the division, competition and conflict that is so rampant in the world and return to a deep reverence for All That Is.
Ultimately, it comes down to moment-by-moment awareness. What am I seeing in this moment? Who am I perceiving in this being that stands before me? Can I choose to witness and honour the light in all things, all people, and in so doing see the reflection of the light within myself?
‘Namaste: I bow to you, I honour the light within you. And I honour the light within me.’
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