Monthly Archives: October 2013

TRICK OR TREAT?

 

I was at a coffee shop last week and the barista asked me “what are you being for Halloween?” I scrunched up my nose, shook my head and replied, “I’m not into Halloween.” I felt like the Halloween grinch, but I’ve wondered about this holiday for a long time, ever since I spent three years as a child in England where they didn’t trick or treat. Later I found out that the basis of many of our western holidays come from pagan roots, and realized that many of the holidays we cherish have become commercial occasions.

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.

The Trick.

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?

The Treat.

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!

CONTEMPLATION
– 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.

Namaste

You likely have heard this word in your yoga class.  I use it at the end of all of my classes, though I rarely take the time to explain it.  Namaste is one of those Sanskrit words that has many meanings.  It is comprised of two words, “namah” and “te.”  The former means “bow” or “salutation,” and the latter means “to you.”  So literally means “salutation to you”, or “I bow to you.”

For me, taking a moment to fold my hands in front of my heart and say namaste is an opportunity to remember why we do yoga. In some of my classes lately, I’ve been asking people why they want to do yoga, or why they want to meditate. There are a variety of answers, but eventually most people recognize that these practices are intended to uncover, engage, and connect us to the core essence being of our Selves.  We discover the inner Self, that place that is within us when we’re born, traverses the path of our life, and remains when we leave our bodies. And once we get a hint of that essence, we want more, and as our awareness grows we discover that the essence, that spark of divinity, pervades all beings.

So at the end of class we take a moment of remembrance.  We remember why we do yoga. We remember that place within ourselves.  We remember that place is within all beings.  We bow to that place, to our SELVES, and as well we bow to that essence in all beings.  It is a reminder, as we get up off our cushion or mat, as we transition from an inner awareness to an outer world, as we put on our street clothes and assume our every day identities, that we remain connected to this essential self.  We remember to allow that connection to uplift, sustain, and guide us as we go about our day-to-day lives.

And we remember that this essence is in all beings.  Not just theoretically,  but REALLY!  This has implications for how we think, behave and interact. So when I go for my latte, I recognize that the barrista is made up of that essence, as is the bank teller, the person in front of me at the grocery store, the person who cuts me off in traffic, the trees, the deer crossing the street, and the planet. I bow to each of them.  I remember that at essence they are divine, as am I.

To get a clearer sense for yourself of how namaste can become a reminder, below are some contemplations for you to work with. I invite you come up with a corresponding English phrase  that is meaningful to you, and remember it when you bring your hands together in front of your heart and say “NAMASTE!!!”

CONTEMPLATION
– Why do you do yoga?

– How does it feel to put your hands in prayer position in front of  your heart and bow to another?

– How would you fill in the blank:  I bow to _________ in myself and all beings.

– Come up with a phrase that makes “Namaste” meaningful for you.