The indigenous people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – the Sami – possess approximately 180 different words for ice and snow. This is not surprising being a culture steeped in winter weather with peoples’ livelihoods and pastimes built around trapping, hunting, and fishing. It makes sense that they would have different words for new snow (“vahca”), fresh powder snow (“habllek”) and the icy shell that forms on snow (“tjarvva”). Having so many words to describe something displays a more intimate knowing of that object. It was likely the snowfall this past week that made me recall that there are cultures that have a much different relationship with the weather than I do, which then made me think about the magic of language, specifically vocabulary.

When asked, “How are you?,” my typical response is “Good” or “Fine” or “Busy.” Iif I am feeling the opposite and I want to be honest, maybe I reply, “Bad” or “Not so good” or “Bored.”  I know these are common, acceptable, and even standard answers. Yet, do they demonstrate an intimate knowing of my own state of being to the degree that the Sami know the soul of snow? No. Not even close.

And here is where widening my vocabulary can serve me well. It brings a richer experience to my being. I go from seeing things as either black or white to seeing things in an array of color. Rather than simply defining my state as “good” or “bad” maybe I’m feeling “joyful” or “nervous.” When I allow myself to sense a range of feelings, and utilize a variety of words to label and describe that sensation, I become wiser and richer in my own experience.

Developing this self-love language doesn’t happen overnight, and it takes kind introspection, mindful awareness and experience. Access to a thesaurus helps, too. I challenge you to join me. Spend some time in nature, in meditation, on your mat, in the treatment room and sense how you feel. Describe that sensation. Be creative. Explore. Stay inspired by the Sami. Build your vocabulary. Speak the language of your soul.

-Daneen Farrall, Sacred Hour Yoga Teacher and Staff Writer