Halloween is a favorite holiday for our clan. The girls love face paint, costumes, and walking the streets of the neighborhood after dark. It’s also the only time of year our house has gobs and gobs of candy stashed in the cabinets. This year, we had double the excitement because on the Saturday before Halloween, the girls dressed up as characters from the British television show, Doctor Who, and Dave took them to a Comicon convention where they could mingle with other science-fiction and super-hero fans. He even dropped some cash for a photo op with the Dr. Who celebrity, David Tennant and Billie Piper.
In preparation for comicon, Dave and I did some internet research. We found that there are a whole bunch of us who spend a few hours and way too much money to put together a cute or even clever costume. But there are also people who have taken this to a whole other dimension. There are a number of professional convention-goers and cosplayers who construct amazingly accurate character costumes. There’s a performance art and role play feel to what they do. They might be hired to make an appearance at the various conventions or to pose for fan photos. Some particularly skilled costume makers construct complicated components for other people’s costumes and make money doing it. We watched a video about a couple that met through their cosplay endeavors and have since married. The young woman talked about why she loves this so much. She spends hours collecting and assembling the different elements of a costume she’s making and she likes thinking about the armor, the weapons and even the personality of person she’ll get to be. She says that when she’s dressed up as powerful, super-hero women, she feels more powerful. People look at her differently. It sounds like some of those super-hero qualities rub off on her.
There are meditation practices that employ religious iconography as the object of focus. If an aspirant spends time, again and again, reflecting on the image, the tools, and the qualities of a figure, then the special figure or diety can have a very powerful influence in a person’s life. Repeatedly thinking about Durga’s lion might inspire courage. Time spent reflecting on Saint Francis holding a small animal or the mudras or hand gestures of the Buddha would offer a different experience. The feelings evoked in this kind of reflection or meditation stay with a person.
Meditation isn’t about “having no thoughts.” A meditative state can come as a result of our efforts to keep the mind directed and engaged with an chosen object of focus. It’s a link, as Chase Bossart says. The stories, images, special gifts, and symbols that go along with the icons can serve as anchors to help us stay connected and engaged and can support the meditative experience. That might be done in contemplation with the eyes closed while sitting on a cushion or in prayer. Or maybe it comes from joyfully recreating every detail of a cosplay costume, thinking about a character’s origin story and adventures, and then spending time embodying the power and the qualities of that character.