Just kidding. Actually I was Flavor Flav.
But, on sifting through the characters of your average run-of-the-mill costume party this time of year [‘scuse me Banana; Hey Girl, you look good with no pants on; Flava FLAV!], I find myself thinking of old ghosts.
This holiday is the eve of All Saints Day in the Catholic Church, and before that, in the pagan tradition, it was Samhain, a day of transition from one year to the next. There is a magic in this transition, like a slip in the time warp, and traditionally it’s considered a time when ancestors return to walk the earth.
It’s not, however, zombies that haunt most of us on this and any other day of the year, and we’d be lucky if it was great grandpa throwing down some wisdom.
It’s probably, you know, your ex.
Or maybe a friend you’ve fallen out with, a family member you have bad blood with, an experience that still, when you think about it, makes your skin crawl a little.
Many of us allow ourselves to be defined by the experiences in our pasts. Some say we create energetic cords to everyone we meet in our lives, invisible threads feeding energy between you and that person in the present, that sometimes get a little too tight and hard and start to fester and turn. With, like, your ex for example.
And I don’t mean to single out any one of you beautiful exes, in case you are reading this, I still love ya, you know, in that complicated, heart wrenching, festering wound sort of way. Kidding, of course, [mostly].
But over the past weeks coming up to Halloween, I’ve had a lot of the past appearing in my life–old ghosts returning to haunt me, just to remind me what I haven’t left behind, what I haven’t allowed myself to deal with, the places where I still feel like a hurt little girl when I think about them. So it’s just got me thinking.
And in my meditation the other day, I was visualizing this cord in my heart that was this thick snakelike thing that plugged into my body kind of like how the people in the Matrix could plug themselves in:
Except that the insertion point of my imaginary cord was all infected and gross and disgusting and I just wanted to yank that thing right out by its root.
But then I realized [the way that voice sometimes talks to you when you sit still enough] that if I wanted to let go of this cord from my past, the only way to do it would be to relax. Otherwise my flesh tightening up over this festering infected thing would just cause more pain, more scar tissue, more infection. I realized I was the one that would have to let go–the cord wasn’t infecting me, I was the one gripping down hard on it and creating the pain.
I like this metaphor for how we hold onto these old ghosts, because when we are able to let them go, we can create new, clean cords to those same people who might have been haunting us in the real, living present moment. We can choose to let go of bitterness and struggle and just be new about it all, we can join the living. We are the true zombies of our lives!
There’s a great Zen Buddhist story that I love these days, and it goes like this:
One day two monks decided to go for a silent walk in the forest. About an hour into their walk, they encountered a beautiful woman who could not cross a stream for her beautiful dress, which would be ruined if she went through the water. She asked the monks if one of them could kindly carry her across.
The younger monk said nothing, remembering that it was forbidden in their order to touch women. The older monk said nothing, and carried her across the water.
The young monk was shocked. He thought, “How could this man carry the woman across the water? He knows the rules, and he is supposed to be an example for us younger adepts! What could he be thinking?” The monk could say nothing due to their agreement for silence, so for the remainder of the four hours they walked in the forest he thought and steamed and wondered and angered about this encounter.
As the two monks returned to the monastery, thus breaking the silence ban, the young monk spoke up: “How could you pick up that woman like that? You know it’s against our policies to touch women! What could you have meant by that?”
The older monk looked at him, thought for a while. “Oh, you mean the woman we met who was trying to cross the river?”
“Yes, that one!” shouted the young monk in frustration.”
“I put her down three hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
In other words, we are the ones that choose how much of the past to carry with us in the future. Some of us carry mausoleums on our backs, and we don’t even realize that we can drop it anytime if we choose to. So many of us wish we could just let go of that damn griefcase but don’t even see the white knuckles of our own death metal grip.
I am a little bit obsessed with this song lately by Gil Scott Heron, a dead poet as of this year, and an amazing human who lets go of the past and refuses to be his own ghost. This song reminds me of the old proverb: No matter how far you’ve gone down the wrong road, it’s never too late to turn around. Here’s a man who’s been through a lot, but chooses to be new here, always.
Anyway Halloween is over now. I’m new here, and I forget. Let’s join the living shall we?