Mindful Monday: Mindful Hellos

Hello. It’s one of the most common greetings. Most of us even know how to say it in at least one other language. Hello. It is the action of giving a sign of welcome or recognition. It is the action of placing our attention on someone. Or something. Today we are going to look at how we can bring more mindfulness to our day through being more mindful of our hellos.

Hellos are a beginning. A fresh start, or a re-start. A chance to see whatever or whomever you are greeting with fresh eyes and a warm heart. A chance to see something for the first time again. 

There are parts of the world where the sacred is intertwined with this intention of welcome and greeting. In Hindi there is a hello, Namaste, used in many parts of Asia and South Asia, meaning “I bow to the divine in you.” “I see the divine in you and I bow to it.”  And in the Southern Germanic Speaking world of Bavaria, Franconia, Schwabia, Switzerland and Austria they use the familiar greeting “Gruss Gott” ‘May God greet you’ and even our English goodbye is the shortened version of ‘God be with ye.’  The old German meaning of ‘greet’ was the same as the meaning for ‘bless’ and so in the same vein as Namaste a greeting was an aspirational and inspirational act. Most other hellos are versions of ‘good day’ and also bring intention to the interaction—a hope, a wish, a prayer. Bill Bryson states in his book Mother Tongue that "hello" comes from Old English hál béo þu ("Hale be thou", or "whole be thou") meaning a wish for good health. You see, no matter where you go in the world, hello is intended to renew you and connect you with health, wholeness, and the divine.

I had a teacher this summer on a course I took named Satish Kumar. And he was a man who infused his hellos with the divine. He looked at each person he said hello to with the joy that one usually exhibits when they greet a newborn baby or a golden retriever puppy. Pure joy radiated from his smile, from his eyes. It is such a different feeling to be on the other side of that hello. His hello was medicine.

Today, see if you can slow down and bring your attention—your heart, your mind, your spirit to your hellos.  See if your hello can be medicine to the people you meet. They can be loved ones, colleagues, co-workers, the barista at the coffee shop, the bus driver, the janitor, the other person walking toward you on the sidewalk. Today, instead of saying hello on autopilot, actually fly the plane. Slow down. Take a deep breath. Feel your feet on the ground. Smile. Say hello. Say hello with your whole being. With your whole heart. And then do the most radical act of all. Wait for the hello back. Make hello a conversation. Make hello a gift. And let it come back.

Yes. Wait for the other part of the interaction. Look at their eyes. Smile. Let the hello sink in. It’s a second or two difference but the impact is immense. Say hello. Wait for the hello back. Take it in. Let it nourish you. Namaste.

© Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD 2015