Last week, while waiting for a parking space in a Starbucks parking lot, I noticed a bumper sticker with the word “Namaste” on a sexy silver Mercedes. If unfamiliar, the word Namaste is a Hindu greeting, which has several interpretations in America. However, I will use the translation my former yoga instruction used following each class. Her palms pressed together at her chest, she would say, “I bow to the spirit in you.” It is not easy to ascertain the authenticity, or sincerity, when Americans adopt an Eastern philosophy, because we are naturally market-driven. Therefore, when someone takes on the Namaste concept, to what extent is it heartfelt, and how much of it is simply a commercialization of the Hindi tradition?
Looking closer, I noticed that the sexy silver Mercedes was taking up additional space in the parking lot. All of the parking spaces at this Starbucks location are “compact,” although I am clueless as to why. This particular neighborhood Starbucks is in an affluent neighborhood where high-end sedans and SUVs monopolize public parking lots. That said, the sexy silver Mercedes was partially in another parking space in which only a motorcycle might be able to park in it. Because it was street cleaning day on one side of the street, street parking was not an option.
A few minutes had come and gone. There were several cars waiting for available parking spaces, anticipating a Starbucks customer to soon come out and give up a space. Roughly 6-7 minutes into my wait, a woman approached the sexy silver Merc. Dressed really sharp, she was holding a venti Starbucks while she read from her handheld. She stopped at the front driver’s door, oblivious as to me, as well as two other cars, waiting for a parking space. A minute or two came and went before someone yelled out, “Hey!” to the woman standing at the Merc. It was less a confrontational Hey! and more like a move-it-along Hey! The woman stopped reading from here device and looked up, glanced over her shoulder nonchalantly, trying to make out the voice of the person yelling Hey! Judging from her facial expression and body language, she was not sure where the Hey! came from. No sooner, her eyes caught my eyes. The woman was impervious as to the fact that people were waiting for a parking space. She rolled her eyes at me. My first instinct was simply to chuckle.
Eventually she stepped in her sexy silver Merc. She left her venti Starbucks holiday cup on the hood of the car. I assumed she would realize that she left it there. But she was much too distracted, too engaged in what was going on on her cell that she completely forgot about her beverage. Someone behind me started blowing their horn like they were annoyed. There was nowhere for me to go, except to leave the parking lot. The car behind me was practically on my bumper. The persistence of the horn-blowing struck me as unusually aggressive for L.A.
I stepped out of my car and walked up to the window of the sexy silver Merc. Not to tell the woman that she was holding up a parking space while she tweeted or liked or connected on her cell phone. I tapped her window. She looked up at me through designer sunglasses. Reluctantly, I think, she rolled down her window and her expression was—imagine how a nose-in-the-air Yes? might look. I said, “You left your Starbucks on your hood.” Suddenly she broke out in a wide smile. She laughed lightheartedly and thanked me. Stepping out of the Merc, I sensed she was chagrined. She offered me yet another “thank you.” I told her it was nothing. When I got back into my car, I saw that the two cars behind me managed to get parking spaces. The sexy silver Merc with the Namaste bumper sticker took its sweet time backing out of the parking space.
I make every effort—although I am not always good at it—to give a person the benefit of the doubt, despite their behavior; especially for those trying too hard to convince the world that they are spiritual or religious or progressive. For all I know, the woman with the venti Starbucks borrowed the sexy silver Merc. She could well have been driving someone else’s car and they embraced, if not demonstrated, Namaste!
In a world that is turning too damn fast, and so many of us are just trying to hold on to what we have … Our truest nature is deeply embedded in unconscious fear. We lose sight of being present, because the only way to be genuinely kind and “pay it forward” is to be present. There might be a few exceptions to this rule, but they are unique. Beneath the superficial facades we present publicly as individuals, the collective consciousness cares deeply. This has been demonstrated time and time again when we go straight to our social networks to shine a light on racism, discrimination, bullying–this raw reaction is often quite visceral. Or we pour out our hearts, our very souls when something stunningly wonderful or amazingly breathtakingly somber becomes a part of history. We pray for wretched souls; we light candles! And this is a beautiful, benevolent thing. Still, Namaste is in every moment; it is not a matter of convenience. Namaste is a way of life.
On this day, when we acknowledge reasons to be thankful (or grateful), feel fleetingly blessed, we should be reminded when we press our palms together, say grace, that bowing in spirit is not something we do only when it fits adequately into our daily agenda.
May loving-kindness always find you. Namaste!