Costumes

“We are all in boarding school. Earth is the school, and our bodies are our uniforms. When we die, all it means is that we get to take off our uniform and go home.”

Dorothy Ackerman

I have been exploring the concept that the clothing that you've chosen to cover your body at any point in your vast history can be seen as a costume. And if this physical existence really is "just a play", as one participant described her experience, then we might just be actors on a stage. And the clothing you put on this morning is as much of a 'costume' as a medieval jester, a 16th century monk, a 20th century soldier, an ancient Egyptian priest, or even the skins and hides covering a caveman's back. All of these are the costumes I have worn in previous lives I've explored recently. So when I dressed this morning and put on jeans, a t-shirt, and hiking shoes, I have to wonder how today's 'costume' will appear when I'm looking back at this from the far distant future when we're all wearing form fitting Star Trek uniforms. In our MeetUps, we have been doing a group meditation to acquaint people with the costumes they are wearing, first with eyes open and then practicing a closed eyed awareness of the cloth, plastic, rubber and hide covering our modern bodies. 

I'm working on a video of this process but you can start where you are. Eyes opened, look down at your feet and describe what you are wearing, as if you are giving information to someone who can't see you but is sketching you. Then close your eyes and feel what is covering your feet, your lower body, your waist, your upper body and arms, and around your neck. Becoming aware of our present day body is a good warmup for the running process, especially for people who are not especially visual. If you can't see what you're wearing with your eyes closed, maybe you can feel what you're wearing. If you can't feel, trying asking for verbal prompts and see if you get a reply; sometimes that will kickstart the visuals.

Now go about your day, and notice how much of a costume a suit and tie is. Can you tell the difference between the tourists and the locals by their costumes? After a long career in the music business, with way too many promotional pictures that will outlast a nuclear event along with cockroaches, I can't criticize the modern hipster uniform of beard, plaid shirt and hiking boots, not when there are band promo pictures of me from the 70's and 80's out there on the inter web. But its a costume, along with outfits chosen by Goths and jocks and hippies, and our costumes are both socially defined and socially defining, plus they are crowd-sanctioned, with social credits for participating and knocks for defying the norm. Look at Renaissance Fairs and Civil war re-enactments, look at them as socially acceptable opportunities to wear costumes from a previous era. But this is not an exercise in fashion; it is in service of step 1 in running a past life: Looking down at your feet, describing it in detail, then doing the same with the rest of our body coverings. Eventually a personality emerges from the clothing and the person behind those clothes is acknowledged. It is the pathway to the inner life of the actor on the stage. 

 Become aware of the costume you are wearing today, and use it as a bridge to examine your role in the play that is your present life.