It’s that time of year when ghouls and witches throng the streets, grinning pumpkins greet you from every corner, and cobwebs show up along with trees on Brooklyn’s brownstone courtyards. I grew up in Australia, where Halloween was less of a “thing” than it is in the United States, but I did celebrate an annual costume holiday – Purim – and I hated it.
I’m not sure if it was my childhood fear of clowns, or generally scary masks, or just the pressure to find the best costume which always left me feeling a little empty each Purim. It took me years to reconcile those feelings and find joy in the holiday, and it still leaves me wondering every year on Halloween – do people really need to dress up?
At festivals like Burning Man, costumes are an important part of the experience. They allow us to experiment and find out about parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed. They enable us to try out different personalities via our clothing, from men in long skirts and tutus to women in leather bondage attire. For me, Burning Man was the place where I developed a signature style I still wear to this day- longer, flowing dresses; flowers in my hair; and animal prints when I’m feeling feisty. But those are no longer costumes for me – they’re clothing I wear every day, that once upon a time, helped me express exactly who I am through the medium of costume.
Several years ago, I stopped wearing makeup daily, after years of knowing every color MAC put out. There was something about going raw and rogue that I loved, even though it was scary sometimes after years of wearing makeup constantly. I appreciated knowing that to feel beautiful, I had to resonate it from deep within. There was no space for cover up. I learned that my makeup was sometimes a mask. In the past, I’d loved using makeup as a canvas that could help me look however I wanted to, and sometimes that was more me. But now, without makeup, there was nowhere to hide.
That’s when I realized that costumes are already part of our being, whether we like it or not. We put on a face to go to a job interview, to talk to our mother-in-law, to smile at our acquaintances, to bravely look our friends in the face while going through personal turmoil. We wear a physical body when our true essence is made of stars and pixiedust, of Divine light and soul material, and we walk through the world every day in that alien way when all our hearts want to do is expand way beyond the body.
But the body is here to be a tool, and the costume of flesh that we wear each day is here to help us experience ourselves at our best, and find out who we truly are. Just like the costumes of today. When we learn to treat our bodies right, to eat intentionally or sing with gusto, we are exploring parts of our soul that are seeking Divine expression through our physical bodies. We are allowing the Divine light from above to flow through our physical beings and embody itself in the earthly plane, creating expansion for the Divine universe. Our costume is here to help us examine all the ways we can expand, and bring ultimate Divinity into every crevice of our bodies, and the earth.
There are ways we can do that, some more simple than others. We can ensure every physical act we do is with intention, from being mindful while walking through the streets to embracing the beauty of nature wherever we go. We can treat our bodies with deep consciousness, using movement and intention to craft prayers with our hands and feet. We can acknowledge our bodies are sacred temples and synchronize them with the Divine flow, recognizing body and soul as a harmonious partnership that requires good, clean eating; regular exercises; and mindful meditation and prayer as the medicines to keep it in tune.
I won’t be wearing a costume this Halloween, but I do wear this costume every day. And perhaps the more I stop resisting that costume, and recognize the abilities it gives me to expand and find my true self, the more I can start to be the Divine being in a Human body that I already am.