It’s that time of year again when we embrace make-believe with fanaticism. Halloween, what a great holiday, it’s my favorite. As a kid, I couldn’t wait until my mom would take me to the local drug store and I could pour over each and every costume, mask, fangs, claws and tubes of blood. Only after repeated efforts from her did I finally emerge from the aisle with which would no doubt be the best costume ever.
As an adult, my costumes got grander, I replaced trick-or-treating with parties, and hangovers came from booze, not candy. Nonetheless, I still awoke the next morning with a smile for another Halloween done to perfection.
It was only after beginning my yoga journey did I start to understand why I loved the Halloween holiday. It all revolved around my ego and my ability to embrace it. I not only got to identify with my ego, but I got to add another ego layer with my costume. A type of ego double entendre, how fun.
Now isn’t that 180° from the purpose of yoga? Doesn’t Patanjali tell us to continually strive to quite our ego (ahamkara) to reach samadhi? Yes, but don’t forget yoga is a journey, a state of being in the now. How many out there think that in this lifetime they’ll reach nirvana? How many of the almost eight billion people on this planet? Two, three, ten, 1,000, 10,000, a million, chances are, our yoga practice and study will not get us there.
Before you get all depressed and throw in your mat and donate your copy of the sutras to the local thrift store, let me explain. Just because we most likely will not experience the bliss of the Atman, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. What’s the purpose of life? Isn’t it to express and live life? Is life predicated on the immediate comprehension and embodiment of the yoga sutras at the cost of missing all that this existence has to offer? I don’t think so.
I believe life is about singing, dancing, eating, drinking, laughing, crying and even trick-or-treating. Patanjali’s offers us a structure that, along with living as an ego, helps to iron out our rough human edges, supporting a more equanimous life, allowing us to begin opening the petals of the lotus to all that life has to offer. View the sutras as a chaperon as you live.
As an individualized consciousness, we have the gift to explore life, which includes recognizing the ego and all of its foibles and identifying with those aspects which allow us to flow with the vibrations of life, love and truth. Isn’t that the reason we bought our mats in the first place?
If asanas and studying the sutras are as far as you get, isn’t that enough? The world received yoga, and Patanjali gave us the sutras as a natural progression of techniques for spiritual evolution. He didn’t guarantee success in this life, nor did he indicate any triumph at all.
I liken my practice of Halloween to Patanjali’s second limb, Niyama, and its fourth principle, Svadhyaya, the ethic of self-study. Every Halloween, I embrace my humanity with love and except the silliness of my ego by covering it with another comical and sometimes scary layer. I can tell you this much, on Halloween night, I’m as close to bliss as I have ever gotten on my mat. I’m 100 percent in the state of ecstasy, joy, love and appreciation for this incarnation. I accept my shortcomings and go with the flow.
So this October 31, embrace Halloween and your ego. Look into the mirror, tell yourself you’re perfect just the way you are, put on that outlandish costume and have fun. Give yourself something sweet, permission to be human; we have the other 364 days of the year to practice seeing beyond our self-image.
Photo by Altınay Dinç.
Marc Josef is a freelance writer based out of Boulder, Colorado. A yoga instructor, meditation coach, cannabis counselor and soon to be podcaster. You can find him wondering the flatirons or email him: firstname.lastname@example.org