Along with a bunch of other Harry Potter junkies, I am re-viewing all of the films on the big screen leading up to the release of the final film. My family indulges me partly because they know I need a night out now and again, and because they know I am strangely uplifted by these stories. Actually, perhaps it is not strange, as in unusual. When I was first introduced to Harry Potter in 2004, I was helping an ESL student research an independent study project on the first two books. I read the books so that we could discuss themes and symbols etc. I was immediately captivated. My student was interested in researching what people reported they felt moved by in the stories. Even at that time there was loads of material on the Internet by sick or disadvantaged children, shy people, or those facing a challenge in their lives, who felt encouraged by the solidarity and integrity of Harry Potter and his friends.
I believe that art reflects life, and that all art in some sense is creative non-fiction. We relate to the common human struggles, and inner journeys explored. In Harry Potter, I appreciate the navigation of social struggles such as the conflict between pure bloods, half bloods and muggles ‘mud bloods’; the challenges faced by disempowered groups such as the house elves. Also, novels that I have most enjoyed contain kernels of wisdom that call us to reflect. At the end of book/movie two, Dumbledore puts it to Harry that “it is not our talents that make us who we are, it is our choices”. Students of yoga may recognize this as compatible with yogic reflections on skill in action (karma yoga).
In Yoga Teacher Training students sometimes seem surprised to hear me mention Harry Potter. But perhaps what interests me most about the stories is the sense of magic, and how that reminds me of yoga. Of course, the author has drawn from wisdom traditions in the books, and made references to this through names or powers and spells, such as anima, just as in Star Wars, the writers drew from Indian tradition in naming Yoda with a Sanskrit word for warrior. Yes, Yoda was a spiritual warrior – a master of mindfulness speaking in aphorisms. In this way, Dumbledore is to Harry Potter what Yoda is to Luke Skywalker: the teacher, the guru, the one who points to the power within and the key to understanding and tapping that power. These stories are our modern legends, rich in symbolism, and reminding us that there is more to life than “getting and spending”; reminding us that there is more to us than what we see, and what we may perceive our limitations to be.
That magic the wizards and witches tap into refers in my mind to the timeless awareness and transcendental prana that we tap into when we use the tool of yoga, or any practice/ritual/contemplation/meditation. Life is magical! We are much more powerful than we believe ourselves to be! We can connect to the past, present and future through timeless awareness, and knowledge fields that are all around us. We can use our insight and expanded energy to stay present, savour moment-to-moment experience, make choices and to help others. What we see in Harry Potter is both the magic (the tools, the practice of magic), and the daily living of it (the compassion, the integrity, the celebration of nature, friendship, sport, culture and celebration itself.
Pass the pumpkin juice!