Don’t get me wrong: I am all for having fun and merry-making (and money-making), especially for the little kids (though the sugar consumption is clearly unhealthy). But in the midst of the consumption and partying, perhaps we can step back to take a closer look at a deeper meaning of this holiday.
Halloween marks the midpoint between the fall equinox and the winter solstice. It is our entry into the darkest time of the year. For the next six weeks, the days get progressively darker until the darkest day of the year on the winter solstice, then we slowly start climbing back toward the light. So November, December, and January comprise the darkest quarter of the year. Traditionally, Halloween was seen as a time when the veil between the spirit world and the material world was thinnest, and a gateway to receive the whispering of insights from the spirit world. Coming at the end of harvest time, it is also the celebration of darkness, the dead, and death, which marks the beginning of a new cycle.
In our America culture, Halloween has become a big party holiday. The stores have aisles full of the accouterments, and my inbox is full of “scary deals.” Even for adults, it has become very popular to dress up, sometimes in elaborate costumes, and take on the role of someone we aren’t. This strikes me as so ironic, given the opportunity of this time of year. And it is exemplary of what we do in our lives in general. Every day we get up, and put on our various masks, make-up and clothing, and take on the roles of wife, mother, teacher, daughter, etc.
Perhaps partying, putting on a costume and taking on a different role for Halloween provides some temporary relief from the stress of our everyday roles, and the challenges of moving into the darkest times of the year. But it feels like the exact opposite of how we could spend our energy. Have we been tricked into another collective consumptive party at a time when the energy is naturally flowing into a quieter space?
In these shortest days, we begin to move inside, literally, as the days grow shorter we spend less time outside. And we have the opportunity to move more internally into our being as well. I often use these days to study and solidify my internal practices that may have waned a little during the days of light and summer fun.
The time around Halloween could be a time of deep introspection, of listening to our heart’s longing, of listening to our spirit speak. It could be a time to take that barista’s question to a deeper level: what do you want to be? In these days of a thinner veil, when the earth is turning in upon itself, to turn inside and listen to the guidance of our spirit. In doing so, we can begin to penetrate the various layers of our being into the core essence of who we are beyond all the roles we play. Knowing this part of our Self is a true treat, indeed.
So please excuse me for seeming like the Halloween grinch, as the last thing I want to do is put a damper on an opportunity to have fun and make merry. I know many people enjoy the creativity of costuming and the fun of connecting with friends. But as we dress up and put on our masks to this Halloween, after we’ve handed out the candy, take some time to consider some of the deeper opportunity this time of year can provide. I’ve included some contemplations below to help. Let me know how it turns out!
– If you enjoy Halloween, contemplate and write about what part of you it supports.
– The next three months are the darkest time of the year. Does this scare you, or can you see it as an opportunity? What more internal activities would you like to cultivate in the next quarter year?
– Contemplate this aphorism from the Shiva Sutras: nartarka ātmā, the self is a dancer (or actor). The essence of our Self is like an actor on the world stage.