At this point in our story from the Mahabharata, the Pandava brothers find themselves living out their 13th year of exile, the year they have to live in disguise and not be discovered. How perfect that we have come to this point during the week of Halloween.
There are traditions in every culture for dressing up, wearing costumes and disguising oneself. This is a metaphor for maya or illusion. Maya is the veil that descends that differentiates us from our source. So in a sense our whole human existence is like wearing a costume. The truth is, it is impossible for us to be cut off from our source, yet we can and often do have the feeling of being separate. When we dress up or disguise ourselves we have a direct experience of maya – we may not recognize the person looking back out from the mirror, but it doesn’t change who you are underneath the costume. It’s only because we are embodied (i.e. wear the “human” costume) that we are able to reflect back to our own divinity – it’s a complete paradox. Although maya is the veil that separates us from our connection to source, it also serves as the portal back to that same one-ness.
Another way to think about this is like wrapping up a gift. We’ve all had the experience of being handed a gift in the plastic bag it was purchased in – it’s still a gift and it’s nice to receive. But how much more fun is it to be given a beautifully wrapped package with fancy paper and bows. The gift inside doesn’t change, but isn’t it a nicer experience to joyfully tear off the wrapping? Our true nature, who we really are, is satchitananda (one-ness, or being-consciousness-bliss) but we forget. Maya exists purely for the joy of rediscovering ourselves, like the joy of unwrapping a beautiful gift. Without darkness we can’t know light, without separation we can’t know one-ness. This is what our yoga practice does for us - pulls back the cosmic veil so we can see who/what we really are at the core of our being. From the outside looking in sometimes all we can see is the surface, the disguise, yet we know that's not all we are.
Maya has taught me one of the most important, life-altering, consciousness-shifting lessons of my yoga practice: We are not separate – there is an intelligence, an interconnected-ness, a one-ness that has brought us all together, it is part of each of us and it is always there. It tells me even if I am lonely, I am not alone. Neither are you.
Off the mat:
Here is a beautiful practice to invite into our relationships and interactions with people and with nature: practice seeing beyond the “costume” of everyone you come into contact with to the oneness beneath. Recognize their divinity first.
On the mat:
Open to Grace: Recognize that the human “costumes” around you contain the same source
Muscular Energy: Hug muscles to bones, bones to marrow, marrow all the way to your Source giving you strength
Organic Energy: Let the light of who you really are shine through - through your clothing, through any role or disguise you might have put on today
Offer a Namaste: “I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”