Spooky days are here!
The arrival of Halloween brings with it a flurry of ghost stories, scary costumes and horror movies that make people embrace their darker side. There’s no Halloween without spirits, right? The origins of Halloween can be traced back 2000 years to the Celtic tribes of ancient Ireland, United Kingdom and Northern France. All Hallows Eve, on the 31st of October, marked the end of summer, warmth and harvest and the start of a cold, dark period of winter. Naturally, this day was also associated with human death and it was believed that on this day the boundary between the land of the living and the land of the dead was blurred.
Many cultures around the world have similar ‘day of the dead’ festivities. Mexico celebrates Día de los Muertos or The Day of the Dead on 2nd and 3rd November, when it is believed that the deceased spirits come back to the living world. Families prepare offerings or ofrendas for their ancestors and departed family members to encourage them to visit and join their celebrations. In a subversion of conventional traditions of mourning the dead, these festivities celebrate them and embrace death as an inevitable part of life.
This makes us question our own notions of life, death and how we perceive them. Life is to be celebrated and death is to be mourned. Life is to be loved and death is to be feared. But why fear something that is inevitable? Yoga lists five kleshas or afflictions that are the root cause of all our suffering. Fear of death, or Abhinivesha is one of them. We cling to life and fear the unknown. We cling to our body, the material, the tangible and fear anything that is intangible.
स्वरसवाही विदुषोऽपि तथारूढो भिनिवेशः॥९॥
svarasavāhī viduṣo’pi tathārūḍho’bhiniveśaḥ॥9॥
“As in the ignorant, so in the learned the firmly established inborn fear of annihilation is the affliction called Abhinivesha” – Aranya
Can we reflect, on this day of Halloween, when the thing-to-be-feared and the otherworldly is wholeheartedly embraced, on what this fear does to us? What it prevents us from achieving. How it holds us back. When we start to unpack it, we find that this fear is very deep-rooted in our subconscious. It is the inherent inertia in us human beings that finds comfort in the status quo, that makes us fear anything out of it. Death is the ultimate change to that status quo, it forces us to let go of all that we love and hold dear to us.
At a more subtle level, we fear change. As much as we crave novelty and motion, we all have our comfort zones that we cling to. We all have attachments to things, places, people, experiences that we are afraid to let go. This fear holds us back from making important decisions that may be right for us. It makes us complacent. It creates anxiety around things, feelings and experiences that are unknown to us.
The true spirit of Halloween can be felt when we start to let go of this fear. We start first with the awareness of it. What do we fear? What makes us anxious? What holds us back? When we find answers to these questions, we start solving them. We start letting go of the fear. This detachment brings with it a sense of freedom and confidence that makes us feel invincible to the tidings of the world. Nothing can break us. And isn’t that a wonderful feeling?