Updated: Feb 26, 2021
I want to explore with you a greeting shared by the Zulu people of South Africa. It is a
greeting spoken as an invocation in two parts. One part is Sikhona, which means “I am
here to be seen”; and the other part is Sawubona, which means “I see you.” It begins with two people looking deeply into each other’s eyes, which is powerful in itself, establishing an uncommon depth of connection without words. Eye contact is like soul contact.
The Zulu people believe that when one person says, “I am here to be seen,” that person’s spirit is invoked to be present. Saying “I am here” is a declaration of intent to be fully present in the moment, signaling a willingness to engage with integrity. To be seen emphasizes “no masks,” “no editing,” and “no defenses,” “no deception,” “This is the real me,” “I will speak my truth,” “I will be honest with you.”
The response, “I see you,” is powerful both for the person who says it and for the person who hears it. According to Zulu tradition, saying “I see you” offers an intention to release presumptions and judgments so that “I can see you as God created you.” Hearing “I see you,” affirms that you do exist, you are both equal, and you have one another’s respect. This greeting represents the Zulu philosophy of ubuntu, a spiritual ethic that advocates mutual support for “bringing each other into existence.” In simplest terms, ubuntu means "togetherness," or more profoundly, "I am because you are," or "Because of you, I am."
To practice ubuntu is to help your sister remember her true identity, recognize her true value, and participate fully in her community. Ubuntu teaches that our purpose is to be a true friend to one another. Through ubuntu we bring out the best in ourselves and others—it is a training in true leadership, real sisterhood. All of which brings me to this: When we truly see and acknowledge others, we are showing respect, the Latin origin respicere means “to see clearly.”
Therefore, when we see another, we respect them; when we truly see another, we see their humanity -- our common humanity -- and therefore, our mutual vulnerability. When we really see others, we can no longer treat them indifferently or inhumanely; we see who they are, and we feel compassion. Really seeing brings clarity and inspires and empowers both the seer and the seen. The words used are a tool. And while words alone cannot solve deep-seated problems, they can provide a ritual for us to open our hearts and see the other person. But the key is what each of us is doing spiritually in the moment – being mindful, noticing others, acknowledging their existence, even without words!
We can greet and treat people in a way that communicates the feeling of Sawubona, we bring ourselves into encounters with hearts open to the possibilities of what might happen.
Our need for connecting has never been greater. Sawubona consciousness leads to peaceful, nonviolent communication and can be done in formal or informal situations, with individuals or in groups. When we are seen, we feel good—we know that we exist. So we know that it is good to do for others too. Let’s find Sawubona moments in life.
I share rituals and practices from around the world during my Moon Ceremonies: www.femininerevolution.com/event
If you would like to explore ways to support your vision of yourself, please contact me to schedule a free call.