What’s behind the mask?

Halloween is the time of year when imaginations soar with creative ideas for costumes and masks. Masks may allow us to let go of some of our inhibitions and insecurities and act in unfamiliar ways. As I thought about Halloween masks, they seemed like a metaphor for the “masks” that we wear in our day-to-day lives.

Most of us, innocently develop a persona, a way of being in the world that portrays what we believe to be true. Much of this “true information” comes from our culture and our family of origin.

We all have our own individual compilation of assumptions and only we can know what they are. This awareness comes about as we become more conscious of our “norm”, that is those ideas and beliefs that drive our moment-to-moment experience.

Some of us believe our religion or political party or ethnic background is better than another. Some of us may believe there are certain things that are necessary in order to feel successful. We may think that the presence or lack of financial success, power, higher education etc. defines who we are. We may believe that we’re not good at math, bookkeeping, public speaking, golf, parenting . . . the list is endless.

And so we wear a mask reflective of those ideas. If we have achieved some of these assumed critical goals we may feel a sense of entitlement. If we have not, we may feel a sense of disappointment. We may not even attempt those things that we’ve decided we aren’t good at for fear of failing or being embarrassed.

So what’s to be made of this? What is creating this experience? What is behind the mask?

First of all, we now know that life is an inside job. That is, it’s our thinking that’s creating our experience. We also know that much of what makes up our mask is habitual thinking and as such, often remains unquestioned and accepted as truth.
But what is behind the mask?

Within each of us lies a profound source of well-being waiting to be tapped. This is known as our innate health and offers us wisdom, compassion, calm and an unself-conscious experience, regardless of circumstances. This gift of innate health is common to all and is constant, obscured only by our habitual thinking. This habitual thinking, often referred to as the ego, is of our own creation. We need only recognize it as such and take it less seriously and personally. When we step back from our thinking we gain a new perspective. We will all continue to live with some degree of mask.

That is part of the human experience. But once we are “on to ourselves” we can never again take it so seriously. We can see that we are making it up. We can see behind the mask to the beauty in ourselves and in every other.

“You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather.” — Pema.

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