Remember those scenes in Avatar, when the people of Pandora would look each other in the eye and say, "I see you?" Well, these three little words may have a much deeper meaning--they are part of a time-tested tradition and greeting that we can use today to feel more connected, centered and purposeful.
About 20 years ago I was on a safari in Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda). As we traveled through the villages and Serengeti savanna I noticed a recurring event. When one of the indigenous people would approach another, they would pause, face each other, look directly in each others eyes for five to15 seconds, say something and then continue on their way. This would happen in populated villages and in very remote areas where there may be only one human every 20 square miles.
After a couple weeks of noticing this I asked one of our guides from the Samburu tribe what the natives were doing. He said they were greeting each other. "How are they doing that? What are they saying?" I asked.
"One of them says, 'I see you.' Connecting through the eyes, the other replies, 'I am here.'"
This touched me. I've traveled to and worked in 94 countries so far and have seen many different customary greetings--hand shakes, bowing, kissing on cheeks one, two or three times, hugging, touching foreheads ... but none quite like this. I have a file I call "Fancy Stuff" for things that tickle my fancy, and that illustrate or demonstrate a truth or useful principle. This goes in that file.
For those of you who saw the movie Avatar, you saw a something similar, but not as complete. The Nave on the planet Pandora greeted by saying, "I see you." Because I've made the Samburu greeting into an exercise I sometimes use in my seminars, I received many emails from former participants calling attention to the similar greeting in Avatar the movie.
Why is this significant? Why would it matter? Why would so many notice?
Well, here's my take--If you've done any work in the personal growth, self-development, transformational education or spiritual study fields then you've heard about the importance of being present and being here now. Books are written about that. Courses and seminars are conducted around this. One way we can recognize truth is that it endures. The counsel to live in the present moment has endured through millennia. It passes along a truth about how to have a good life.
Great advice. But, how do I do that?
There are many techniques and practices taught. I have many I use and present in my seminars and talks. Some take years of constant practice and eternal vigilance. Some can work quickly and repeatedly. This simple Samburu greeting is one of the latter. It is a simple method for coming present and connecting at a heartfelt level. We can do it anytime, anywhere with anyone. All that's required it to pause, look and choose. And then let it go and move on. Ten seconds. There will be another opportunity to apply that simple formula.
This will take us much deeper and farther than the habitual, superficial "Hi, how are you? I'm fine." greeting in some cultures.
The eyes are the windows to the soul. When we connect with the soul, who we truly are, all things positive are present--joy, abundance, acceptance, compassion, understanding, cooperation, loving, peace of mind, humor, ease, simplicity and more. That is the nature of the soul. And isn't this what we truly want, a positive experience in life?
The soul is always in the eternal now. The present. Connecting with the soul in this Samburu and Nave way is guaranteed to bring us present. And thus, guarantees a good moment. Add these moments together more frequently, and for longer periods and we have more of what we want.
Pause, look, choose. Repeat--a simple enough formula. And not always easy. Like most personal skills we need to practice, practice, practice... I don't need to use these precise words. All I need is the intention to open, connect give and receive.
When I consider greeting another in ways similar to the Samburu and Nave I'm aware that I have a protected part that resists and doesn't feel safe if I let down some of my guard and protection. I'm concerned about what they might think of me, or that they might judge me, or that I will embarrass them or myself. But if I let that resistance stop me I'm stopping myself from getting the very things I say I want. So, what have I got to lose? I already don't have all the things I say I want. As the Nike ads say, "Just do it!"
My Samburu guide told me something else that I didn't get at first. He said that in their language the greeting also meant something like, "Until you see me I do not exist. When you see me, you bring me into existence." This speaks toward our deep connectedness and that we are in fact All One.
If I truly get this at an experiential level, peace, compassion, cooperation, respect, honoring, hosting, giving and serving, and more, would naturally flow. When I know this truth, I wouldn't harm another because that would only be harming myself. My altruism is selfish. And my selfishness can be altruistic.