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Jul 30
Dharma Teachings
The Path of “Hi”

guest article by Susan Piver

Hi there! This morning, I went for a run at about 6:30am. The streets were mostly deserted but occasionally I would pass someone on the sidewalk. When I did, I said, “hi.”

OK, I live in Boston. Boston is not a hi-saying town. I used to live in Austin, TX which is very much a hi-saying town – you say hi when you walk past someone, hi when you enter a retail establishment, hi to the people at the table next to you in a restaurant. It is no big deal. Nobody freaks out. They just say hi back.

I also used to live in New York City which, in its own way, is a hi-saying town too. Not in the big-smile-howdy-y’all way of Austin, but in its own slightly gruffer but still acknowledging your humanity kind of way.

When I first moved to Boston, I suffered from the non-hi saying atmosphere. I wanted to greet my fellow humans so I began to say hi in secret. I would look at them and say hi in my mind, then quickly look away so as not to freak them out. (People here are very suspicious of friendliness.)

Saying hi sounds like such a tiny gesture, but opening to, taking in, and greeting our fellow humans as comrades on planet earth is not. As you go about this day, you could greet everyone you meet, whether silently or not. I mean, don’t be silly about it, just a simple “hi” while looking at them with friendship. Of course you can always say hi to them without them knowing it, as I sometimes do.

And you don’t have to stop at the people you encounter. You can say hi to the people on the news. As the credits scroll in a movie, you could say hi to each name. You could say hi to every emotion that arises in you. Excited? Hello! Sad? Hey there! Terrified? Howdy! Bored? Hola! I’m not saying you have to be overjoyed at everything, but we can still be polite enough to offer a greeting.

This small moment of greeting actually has the power to change everything. To say hi is to open up, take someone or something in without presupposing anything. Just an acknowledgment. No agenda, no defending of territory, no particular purpose. Just a small gesture of friendship.

These little gestures build up, you know.

Each time I said hi to someone on my run this morning, they seemed a bit startled, looked at me, softened, smiled, and then you know what? They said hi back. Score one victory for sanity.

Susan Piver is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do.” She is also the author of The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life: 100 Essential Questions for Designing Your Life from the Inside Out, and The Hard Questions for Adult Children and Their Aging Parents, all published by Putnam. Her latest book, How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, explores incorporating spiritual practice and study into everyday life.

Susan has been studying and practicing Buddhism since 1995. A graduate of Shambhala Vajrayana Seminary, she has been authorized as a meditation instructor. Susan teaches workshops on meditation, inner growth and creativity. Visit her website at: susanpiver.com

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10 responses to “ The Path of “Hi” ”
  1. Hi- Morning-Hello-all pop out of my mouth when I jog….Usually to give warning I’m running up from behind….(startle effect). It is nice when there is a response.

  2. susan piver
    Aug 9, 2012

    Thank you, Aine! A very lovely observation and reflection on the practice of Hi. May basic goodness dawn! Hi, Susan

  3. Hi!
    I’m from Boston, and NH – I have always said “Hi” and I have almost always received a response in kind in either region. :)

  4. Hi! :)

    thank you for this inspiring article! I just started to think about the hi some months ago. Because I live in Berlin Germany – and here you don´t say hi. Even in not so busy places like on a floor in some building or on a hiking trail in some forest around here. So I started to say hi – mostly in my mind. Like i started to say thanks in my mind, when I am biking and somebody gives way … sometimes I wave it. It´s so nice say hi! and thanks! to connect with people around you.

  5. Hi Susan,
    Is Amsterdam, where I live, a hi-saying city? It depends. If there is mutual interest I guess it’s a yes. Hi is Hoi in dutch. If I am running, some greet others don’t. Men greet more than women is my experience. Motor bikers greet each other by waving. That is international I think. By cyclist greeting is not done. By walkers you greet more with a smile. If there is a real contact sometimes we say Hoi, Hallo of Goedemorgen. I will take notice more of the greetings thing. And I shall practice.
    Nice article. Thanks!

  6. Aine Marron
    Aug 2, 2012

    “G’day” is “Hi” in these parts – Melbourne, Australia. Which, when you think about it, is very Shambhalian! It took me 10 years to learn how to pronounce it properly – being originally a Dubliner – where we did not actually say “Top o’ the morning to ya” but the sentiment was felt just the same in the colloquial “How-a-ya?”

    One has to be circumspect about where one says G’day downunder. In rural areas you can say it to anyone. In Melbourne city – on a train or bus is not acceptable – at least not during the commuter rush. But in Sydney it would be. The universal language of body language teaches us the local rules.

    Reading your article made me realise that I live in a country where the daily greeting is to wish everyone a “Good Day”. Not a bad start to a Shambhala greeting. In Eire, one has to receive thanks in order to receive a wish of goodness – the phrase for “Thank You” is “Go raibh maith agat” – which translates as “May goodness be with you”. Which now reminds me of our Sakyong’s proclamation in our opening chant – May Basic Goodness dawn!

    So I hope I remember to mean it – whenever I say “G’day”! Or “Thank you”.

    Thank you, Susan

  7. susan piver
    Aug 2, 2012


  8. I nod and say Hi, all the time, and I get strange looks too. ;-)

  9. Ritchie Pattersom
    Aug 1, 2012

    I’m from Kansas. We definitely say hi here, to everyone. Hi!

  10. David Brown
    Jul 30, 2012


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