From the Secret Lives of Yoga Poses Archive posts from 2008 – 2009
Here are some thoughts I wrote down about the holiday back in 2009 (the pictures are a little newer) – enjoy!
Halloween is one of my favorite yoga holidays.
In my early yoga practice, when my teacher showed up to class in a witch’s costume on October 31st, I thought it was bordering on inappropriate. Halloween, with the ghouls and the yahoos and the boozy parties, didn’t seem to fit within my new found passion for this devotional art of service to all beings. But over the years, I have absorbed some of the open-ness that comes with the practice. And though it’s not in any formal teachings that I have run across, I have come to understand, even to relish her gesture in making a connection between these two seemingly disparate traditions.
And I’m not talking about honoring our departed loved ones at around the end of October, or the thinning veil between the manifest and spirit worlds said to come around the new moon time in Scorpio.
I’m talking about the costumes.
In a wonderful creation story from the Tantric tradition, it is said that the Goddess recasts herself as every animate and inanimate form that is present in this universe out of the sheer desire to experience herself in new ways, and to taste the sweetness of desire. I’ve lately adopted the habit of referring to the universe as the “multiverse,” because it makes sense to me to conceive of the whole as something more like a multiplicity – a collection of these many and diverse forms. As microcosmic expressions of this Shakti, one could imagine that each one of us possess all of her attributes, as a drop of water contains every bit as much water-ness as a well full of water does, or an ocean full. I love the idea that we, too, as forms of the multiverse, have worlds within us – are made up of facets as limitless and diverse as those of the forests, the oceans, the deserts, and the stars in the sky.
When you think about it, every time we practice yoga we are tapping in to our complexity and potential to recreate ourselves in new ways. We assume the many forms of the asanas, one after the other, sometimes pausing for a moment to savor the experience of knowing ourselves within that form. “Mmmm, this is me in triangle pose. Ahhh, here is me in a cobra shape.” It is delicious, every time. It’s not unlike a child’s game of dress-up – an opportunity to try on, try out, and celebrate possibility itself. In doing our practice, we celebrate the myriad possibilities of the unimaginably complex and varied beings that She (the universe) is, and that we are.
Over the years I have come to relish Halloween as a grand celebration of these myriad forms. When we honor the parts, in effect, we honor the whole. And what’s more, it’s just fun. Looking around at all the grown-ups – on the bus, in the bank, playing like children – lightens my heart and renews my delight in simply existing.
My favorite image from last Halloween is that of a small girl in a long black lacy dress, with a tall pointy orange hat and sparkly silver shoes, standing at the counter of a cafe and holding in front of her an orange and black frosted jack-o-lantern shaped cookie on a plate. Her eyes were all lit up in anticipation of the pleasure that sweet treat promised to impart. And there I saw the Goddess embodied – a witch who was also an angel, and a princess, and the very epitome of a human being, born from her own deep longing to relish herself via the pleasures and the confines of the human experience.