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The Path of Hi

June 19, 2012   |   20 Comments

Hi! This morning, I went for a run at about 630a. 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 NY 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 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.

Love and hi, Susan

PS. 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 for sanity.

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  • Posted by:  Jenn

    Love this post! I was smiling while walking down the street (here in San Miguel 🙂 this afternoon, and a guy says, “why are you smiling?” Which is kind of a hi, in that it engaged me. We had a lovely 6-minute talk standing there, and I think we happyed-up each others day. As a former lifelong New Yorker, I LOVE how here everyone says hi. Or, well, hola. It’s so nice to acknowledge humanity.

    Hope you can make it down here, Susan… I was so excited to learn with you, and saddened for your loss. We are here, waiting!

    • Posted by:  susan

      So glad you enjoyed it! And I hope to say hola to you someday in SMA, personally…

  • Posted by:

    Hi! Thank you for this. This sounds so much like the way I’ve floated/fallen through life. As a Northern California girl of a certain age currently living in beautiful rural Rhode Island, validation of subtle regional… inclinations are very empowering to one who feels like a fish out of water.
    Love and hi!

    • Posted by:  susan


  • Posted by:  Sue Fox

    Yes I agree, here in the UK, Derbyshire is different to London, we are greeters, not everyone, but no one is startled like Londoners. I like to engage people sometimes, stall holders or customers, as though it is the most normal thing to do, they pause a little and then usually respond in kind. I love to do this, as you say it softens people, make for community spirit.

    • Posted by:  susan

      I know exactly what you’re talking about, Sue!

  • Posted by:  Gary

    Very interested in meditation and your site. Tried to register and just got a thank you message but no place to enter user name and new password.

    • Posted by:  susan

      Thanks for letting me know Gary. Where did you try to register? If you want to get my free newsletter, you can sign up here. There is a paid newsletter, too. You can sign up for that at the bottom of this page. Hope that helps!

  • Posted by:  kathleen

    Hi Susan 🙂
    Love this. Love that such a simple guesture can mean so much.

    • Posted by:  susan

      I love that too.

  • Posted by:  Megan

    I remember my first day of college back east, walking around campus with my new roommates (both of whom were New Englanders), and since I was from California, I naturally said hi to everyone I made eye contact with. When we reached our destination, both my roommates gave me a look of astonishment and one said, “Wow, you know so many people here already.” I remember being shocked and told her, “I don’t know any of those people! I’m just saying hi.” It was such a weird thought to me that you had to actually know someone in order to acknowledge them.

    BTW I still say hi to people all the time.

    • Posted by:  susan

      Love this story. Hi!!

  • Posted by:  Andrea Rouda

    This is so true here in New England! I live in Maine, and you can forget about getting a “hi” back from a stranger around these parts. I have lived in many cities and this is the first place where I noticed this. Smiles are also kept only for people you already “know.”

    I have always wondered why we can’t all be friends, even before we have been “introduced.”

  • Posted by:  Angele

    I am an introvert and I think we have a harder time saying “hi” plus my mother taught me never to speak to strangers. When I go for my walk I meditate so I do not care if someone says “hello” to me fine if not fine. Sometimes I think men can get the wrong impression if you smile and say “hi” while looking them in the eye?

    I started just looking at people and smiling as I walk by without speaking unless of course spoken to and then I always respond. But these days everyone (except me) wears dark glasses so now I just smile as I walk past.

    For the record I have never worn dark glasses I am age 72 and have 20/20 vision.

    • Posted by:  susan


  • Posted by:  Kathybosin

    Hi! Love that you said hi anyway, and that you noticed that they seemed to like it. It doesn’t take much to add a little softness and kindness to the world.

    • Posted by:  susan

      So true.

  • Posted by:  Laura

    I like saying ‘Hi” to people and I am a New Englander. I live on the south shore of Boston. New Englanders are tough nuts to crack but once you gain their trust they are your friends for life.

    • Posted by:  susan


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“With wisdom, creativity and artistry, Susan Piver brings a Buddhist lens to the spiritual map of the Enneagram. The results are vibrant and nourishing; a banquet of insights that help us transmute our difficult emotions into pure expressions of our basic goodness.”

 – Tara Brach, author of Radical Acceptance