I've been thinking about the concept of recognition for a long time. Someone asked me about it and I have been considering what it means to be recognised by another human being, by the world, for exactly who you are. I've been meditating on how it relates to yoga practice and what it means for the quality of your life.

I'd come to the conclusion that being recognised is a key element of yoga, but I was finding it hard to articulate why this is so.  I felt that it was related to the concept of darshan (to see and be seen by another), which is the treasure that Ram Dass, Krishna Das and others found in their gurus: that rare feeling of being seen by another, really seen, beyond the surface of what we say and do and all of the techniques that we have developed, consciously and unconsciously, for dealing with the world and being loved absolutely anyway, for who we are at heart.

Then this morning, I read the following from the book, True Love, by the Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn and it all suddenly feel into place in my mind and in my heart:

"To love is to recognize; to be loved is to be recognized by the other ... When we are loved we wish the other to recognize our presence, and this is a very important practice."

We have all developed our different ways to interact with a world that is unpredictable and which is always changing.  Some of us do too much for everyone else, perhaps too little for ourselves; some of us close off important, perhaps vulnerable parts of ourselves so that the world (we hope) cannot hurt us; some of us come out fighting, aggressively defending our space, our feelings, our softness; others fill the world with noise and bluster, talking all the time, filling all the silences, so as to never have to be truly seen or have to admit who we truly are; some show off, shouting 'look at how wonderful I am and all that I have achieved' in order to hide their weaknesses.  But beneath all of that, we are all vulnerable; we all need to be loved.

To be recognised by another is to be loved.  Through loving and recognising you, they are saying: I see all of your hurts and defences and foibles and weaknesses, the things that you do right and the things that you do wrong and I recognise that beneath all of that you are truly a unique and wonderful person; I see into the heart of you and the heart of you is beautiful and good.  They are saying that you do not have to be anything else, you do not have to act a certain way, prove yourself, change yourself, be someone else, they are saying that they recognise you and love you for exactly who you are now.  Imagine someone feeling that for you, or expressing those feelings for you, and you will understand what a gift it is.  The gift of recognition is the gift of true love and acceptance.

And recognising ourselves is just as important and just as much about love.  The idea of loving oneself has negative connotations: we talk about someone 'loving himself' as a way of saying they think too much of themselves, that they are big-headed.  This is unfortunate, because truly loving oneself is one the hardest, most subtle, most profound aspects of our yoga practice.  Can you look into your heart and see all that is beautiful there?  Can you appreciate your own self, behind and beyond all of the surface actions of your personality and ego?  Only when you can do this are you truly able to love others, for when we recognise ourselves as essentially good and true and made of love, then it follows logically that we recognise every other human being as essentially good and true and made of love too, no matter what traits they are projecting to the world.

Yoga practice asks us to look deeply into our own hearts, to be honest, and to recognise that we are each an expression of Divine love.  Then, having recognised it in yourself, to recognise it in everybody else, not just your family, or your friends, or the people that you have chosen to surround yourself with, but everyone.

Practising recognition is not easy, but it is a rare and wonderful gift to give and to receive.


  1. This has made me think about the quote I read as I pass the window of the Samaritans centre (in Winchester) about how the greatest gift you can give someone is to truly listen to them, to give them your time and undivided recognise them as a person, I suppose. Must write that quote down next time I'm in Winchester! V.

  2. This from Belinda...

    Hi Sarah, Hi all. I like this reflection a lot :o) It really makes me think, and it feels quite relevant in my life right now.

    In our so often hurried worlds, listening properly really appears to take some effort, and so it is a great skill. I should like to focus on this. Ultimately I would be happy of more love and recognition, but I'm sure the answer is to found in first giving more outwardly myself.




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