Consciousness & happiness

Tuesday, June 27, 2006


A position used for greeting, with the palms together and fingers pointing upwards in prayer position; used in the Zen tradition, but also common in many cultures in the East. It expresses greeting, request, thankfulness, reverence and prayer.

Before eating, Louisa and I bow--for me, it's an opportunity to notice I'm alive--literally. I was 30 before I noticed that. I guess I was on "automatic" before then.

Before and after our weekly 'business meetings' we bow to remind ourselves that we're a team, especially in case we get into items we disagree upon.

On trails in Nepal, it was namaste to strangers: I don't know you, but my spirit acknowledges yours.

If I'm particularly grateful to someone (who may have no connection to Buddhism), a gassho is a way of expressing my sincerity. Ditto if I need to apologize for something.

Coming into the zendo, it's a 'memo to self' that I'm part of a long lineage of meditators, to whom I give thanks.

Before and after meditation, a gassho says thank you to me (bowing in to my cushion) and to the group (bowing out) for our communal presence.

In formal group discussions, it can take the place of a talking stick, keeping a semblance of formality to what might otherwise be 'just' chatting. At the end of the discussion, it's a way of saying, OK, we can talk 'regularly' now.

When Louisa and I need to connect after some awkwardness or upset, it's a way of cutting through our BS.

I've been gasshoing for years, so that now my body knows to bow before "I" do. I already have my palms together before thinking about it. Is this where the gesture for prayer came from? Buddhism preceded Christianity by several centuries (not to mention Hinduism...and whatever preceded that!)--maybe the act of putting palms together is deep-rooted in some collective cultural memory?


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