No Mistake, No Mistake
v.22 | The flaws in me respect the flaws in you.
Greetings Yogafolk —
I transcribed a LOT of interviews this summer as I worked steadily toward completing my Master’s degree. I employed the help of AI for the first pass, which decently sketched the gist of the conversation. But if the app encountered Sanskrit, or if there was even a skosh of background noise, the machine glitched and couldn’t quite make sense of the dialogue. So after the first mechanic pass, I would sit and listen to the interview in its entirety, manually adjusting the bot’s errors as I plodded along.
One of the consistent words the transcription tool tripped on was, “Namaste.” Without fail, “Namaste” became “No Mistake.” I had to readjust this so-called error time and time again.
Namaste is a typical greeting amongst Hindi-speakers, typically translated in yogi parlance as: “the light in me bows to the light in you,” or, “I honor the divinity in you.”
“Namaste” has been targeted in recent years (here, here, here, and here) for being appropriated and misused by white folks in the commodified yoga scene. Rightfully so. I aim to use it with care and sanctity, as a contextually appropriate greeting, or if it’s said to me, I volley back, like a call-and-response. Because words are everything. They’re how we shape worlds, understand each other, make meaning and create purpose. They’re like spells when uttered with reverence.
The linguistic AI error vibrates something in my heart and gut when I say it out loud: “No Mistake, No Mistake.” I see the way the words rewire people’s neurons and reroute their blood flow when I share the story. So I take pause and honor the intelligence within the glitch, even if it’s artificial.
I realize that when we greet each other, we’re saying “heyo” to the tenderest parts of one another. To the parts that are flawed, messy, inconsistent, hurt, anxious, wounded, scared, and angry. We’re also whispering “hi-ho” to the most joyful, celebratory, hopeful, idealistic, loving, empathic, compassionate bits, too.
To honor someone in all their light and their dark is to give ourselves that same grace. It is to acknowledge human imperfection. And human imperfection permeates life. This was felt heavily during my time in Turkey, where I journeyed with an inspiring group of practitioners these last weeks. It was my first experience leading an international retreat, and suffice to say there were some, err, bumps along the road. The learnings were numerous and mistakes were made. Well, not mistakes, because, “No mistake.” In the end, the journey served as excellent training ground for our yoga: for learning to listen to our needs, to each other, and to the environment of which we’re a part, and here’s the important bit — learning to adapt accordingly.
We practiced in the largest city in Europe where the five-times-daily call to Muslim prayer reminded us to sit in awe and reverence; we traveled to the seaside where we took shelter on a pomegranate farm and bathed in the (nearly full) moonlight; and we explored million-year-old rock caves in the mountains. We learned to trust ourselves and each other: our adaptability, and strength, but also our softness and our grace. In the end, perceived mistakes were really inflection points. Moments to listen, learn, and grow.
There are no mistakes in life, in yoga, in practice, in rhythm, in settling into relationship and in becoming. It’s all curiosity, trying, failing, and trying again. Or, “fail, fail again, fail better” as Pema says.
Below, a few thoughts on leaving room for imperfection.
No Mistake, No Mistake,
In technological terms, a “glitch,” is thought to be a mistake — a bug in the system. Legacy Russell argues that the glitch is actually liberating, the fissure creating a glimpse into alternative pathways. She believes the glitch defies binaries, and breaks down limitations in our understanding of gender, race and sexuality:
“As glitch feminists…we are putting a wrench into the machinic gears of gender, striking against its economy, immersing ourselves inside of brokenness, inside of the break.”
— Legacy Russell, Glitch Feminism
Perhaps we need to acknowledge our brokenness in order to heal ourselves and our planet:
“When the teacup breaks, we see how that particular tea was never for us, leaving us the holy lessons of mindfulness, intention, deeper presence. Our temporary and cyclical work is to notice what is broken, clean up the dangerous fragments of the past, and let them go—or remake them into something beautiful, and then begin again.”
— adrienne maree brown, Breaking is Part of Healing
Obsessed with perfection, a copy editor tangoes with the pros and cons of rooting out errors everywhere he goes. He aspires to embrace flaws the way Navajo do, but can’t quite come to terms with flaws:
“I’m occasionally asked whether I can make my way through the world without shivering under the constant bombardment of typos. When I’m not on the clock, the answer is: mostly. A restaurant sign advertising a “pre-fix” menu will stop me in my tracks (I won’t eat there) … ‘I think it must hurt sometimes to live in your brain,’ my husband has said on occasion, not unkindly. But, as he also notes, in a kind of nursery rhyme mantra, ‘Your strengths are your weaknesses, your weaknesses are your strengths.’”
— Benjamin Dreyer, My Life in Error
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