The Lila Gras


“My, what a Divine space suit you have on.” Ram Dass
I remember the first time I met one of my yoga teachers, Ram Dass. He is the author of the iconic coffee table book on yoga, Be Here Now. He walked out of a library in New York and I unconsciously turned towards him. He had a magnetic pull. He was lit up and accepting. I really felt like he was “somebody,” whatever a somebody might be. He seemed to look at me as though he knew who I was, yet I didn’t know him at all, let alone myself. It was an interaction I hadn’t known before, free of judgement or labels. It was a sort of Soul-to-Soul glance that lacked any motive or intention behind it.
I later saw that he was the keynote speaker that night. He gave a talk about reincarnation, a concept new to me. He stated that we all had “divine space suits” on and that we were really Souls in a body, the body being a costume. I had just graduated from college with a Major in Costume Design. I found the concept very relatable and intriguing.

Seated amongst a vast wardrobe of individuals, Ram Dass pointed out particular space suits. There was the “academic” fashion, the “environmentalist” costume, the “new age” cloak, the “sexy” veil, the “successful” lead role and so on. This was quite fun and not a problem at all, he said, until it clouded our aperture. He lovingly joked about how the academic primarily looks to deduce and educate. The environmentalist to reduce and preach. The new-ager to size up astrological signs and charts, the sexy to seek sensual attention and suitable prospects, and the successful to acquire more titles under their important name. I found the entire talk refreshing. He was disrobing our fixed roles, veil upon veil, into the great uncovering. We were getting undressed. What a masquerade we had been in!

“We are all just God in drag.” Ram Dass

“Lila” in Sanskrit refers to Cosmic play or an “enactment, stage, drama, game.” It implies we are all lightly playing out temporary roles as though in a theatre, wearing diversely vibrant space suits. None of it is ever fixed or set. These are the rules of the game. The body, a container, is not who we really are. Knowing this helps us to play the game well.

In the concept of Lila, our roles are ever-changing. To get into the performance called upon at the moment activates Self-Realization so that we are not so easily allured by otherness. Binding ourselves leads to further perpetual pain. Same pain, different mask. Lila is full of tricks and wizardry. Not all things are as they seem. We’ve got to dig deep and look behind the veil for the Magick to arise. We must be resilient and move with the pulse of change.

The exposure to our internet world reveals greater levels of both awe and appreciation as well as the appropriation of variety. Conversely to our awe, it can bring more news of hierarchal violence, ego-based identity, fear, privilege, injustice, carelessness, terror, division and all “ism’s.” In yoga, the deepest level of disease is indeed separation.

As yogis, our job is to undo the way we think things are so that we can accept the way things really are. Lila, the game we are living in this terrestrial plane, is meant to be a playing field of dynamic experience. Learn how to play the game. The trick is to not get bound by it but to play out our role dharmically and optimally, with respect to what costume a particular Soul needs to wear to evolve in this lifetime. Playing out a dharma that is not ours is dangerous, as stated in the Bhagavad Gita, 18:47:

“To do your duty even partially instead of that of another will lead you to freedom. To do the dharma of another is death.”

“It is not recommended nor necessary to follow or understand the path of another. One does not constitute higher or lower rank. It is necessary to follow your purpose if you seek liberation.”


All roles expire and get traded in. It is best to live out our role fully, while remembering no role is permanent. Learn to take this news lightly.

As Alan Watts writes, “Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be.”
Every Mardi Gras we live out a particular archetype to its fullest expression here in New Orleans. In doing so, we all feel free and a permission to Be. A Lila Gras is this. The possibilities are endless. Souls do not judge. Only egos do. All roles are Divinely attributed and exquisitely made. This is fulfilling for a Soul and brings immeasurable joy in the Lila Gras.

In a costumed Lila Gras we recognize each other Soul to Soul and take on Soul identity. We feel what it’s like to experience the body as a vehicle of transport, with the Soul having the experience. The body travails and the Soul travels. Our body is a chariot that takes our Soul forth into our next stage of evolution. At one point we all give it back. No one escapes that rule. The ego will die. The Soul is eternal.

No chariot is less than. A body is simply another fractal variation of the Whole. Recognizing that everyone is exactly what and where they need to be at the moment to live out what they must learn is very radical. It may require total valor. Doing so may be all that they need for them to have their own Soul ignited. To identify as a Soul “playing” a role is the real Revolution.
Examining what costumes we really want to keep in our wardrobe is inevitable. So is evolution. Thrive inside of Cosmic rhythm. It will take you from role playing to Soul playing. Happy Carnival!
Namaste. I recognize the Soul in you. — Swan Michelle

How to Apply the Lila Gras in Your Life:

Because a Lila is about spontaneity, for this month and during our Mardi Gras season, navigate your compass to a playful atmosphere by training a positive imagination. Look deep into someone and appreciate how they landed themselves into the body in which they did. You might even recognize reflections of your own state of evolution in them at the moment, which can often be difficult, but don’t avert, grip to it, box them into it nor judge it. Don’t let it get heavy. Practice making no assumptions about others nor degrading them. Do not feed drama in your life, news, politics and believes, giving it more power. Work from the Soul lens. Look at people as though you know who they really are in there. Take nothing personally and do not get offended nor defensive. Lila is a reminder to embrace all aspects of our lives. A Lila is an active art form.

“More Rama, Less drama.” Ram Dass

How to Apply This On Your Mat:

On your mat this month, work on moving from the very core of your being physically. Work on your core strength. Feel the central channel and work with the expansion out from the core into each layer of muscle, structure, tissue and fiber out the the limbs and the foundation & past the skin. Twists are a wonderful set of poses that force us to access the central channel as to apply their full execution as are inversions.

This month, enjoy the numerous hats and costumes you wear in this costume Lila. Diversity them. Do something new. Give others the space to do the same, even if you don’t understand it.

“Love everyone, serve everyone, tell the Truth.” Neem Karoli Baba.

“Unity in diversity is the new world order” Swami Sivananda


*The Bhagavad Gita Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Swami Yogananda or Swami Satchidananda
*Youtube talks and quotes by Alan Watts such as The Skin Encapsulated Ego, How To Win The Game You Play, The Dangerous Game You Must Play, The Eye of I Of Which Nothing Is Hidden.
*Books and quotes by Ram Dass which include Be Here Now, Polishing the Mirror, Be Love Now, Still Here
*Watch: Avatar, The Matrix, Fierce Grace”

Written by Michelle Baker
February, 2017