How To Take Off The Mask And Be Kind To Yourself

BY Parvati

This week marks Halloween. Originally the night before the Christian festival All Souls Day, it commemorated souls that had departed. Today Halloween has become a time of pumpkins, candy and costumes. For many, it is an opportunity to try on a different look or personality, leaving the everyday self our friends and colleagues recognize to explore new personae. I love designing different characters and costumes for my shows that share creative possibilities year-round. Yet, this time of costumes brings to mind a tendency we all have to some extent or another. Sometimes the masquerade is not about what we put on at Halloween, but the masks we may not realize we wear all year. Without realizing it, we may be attached to ideas of who we are that feed our egos while disconnecting us from the full experience of ourselves and life.
In a material world, where success, money, power and fame are common goals, we polish our egos by grabbing onto the temporary high of identifying with “I am the VP of sales”, “I am Miss Reliability”… We all appropriate an identity in some way or another. In doing so, we try to fill up a sense of emptiness by taking on an idea of with someone we want to be. We also feed a restless wanting and sidestep the real work of facing our shadow.
We appropriate things we think of as “better than” to try to get rid of things we don’t like. But just as when we buy a new dress or car to try to fill us up, or when we flit from one relationship to the next in search of the high of “perfect” love, we haven’t gotten rid of the problems we’ve been carrying. We can hide for some time in what seems to be a shiny, fresh glow, until our shadows come calling once again.
Conversely, we may unconsciously be attached to an identity of being worthless, impure, incapable or ugly. Without knowing why, we find ourselves repeating actions that support this identification, such as letting down friends, making unhealthy choices, not getting our work done on time, or living in unkempt and messy surroundings. We may seek anything that promises distraction, so that we do not have to face our own pain.
The spiritual community is not immune to this. When we deem something “spiritual”, we want it, and balk at what we think won’t make us blissful. We spend our time chasing rainbows without considering the ground. Taking on the identity of a yogi, yoga teacher, meditation instructor, churchgoer, pastor, spiritualist, healer or guru has the same potential for ego trickiness as taking on names or titles in the material world. Whatever identity we take on, “spiritual” or not, is based on the illusive sense of having power over others, and ultimately, fuels the self-delusion of having power over our shadow.
Where there are humans, there are shadows. The opportunity to touch these shadows does not spark from condemnation or judgment. Instead it arises from the sincere desire to remember our true nature and consciously rest in the whole as we return to the One.
Though we tend to hide our shadows in the dark or try to outshine them by focusing exclusively on the light, we need to pause for a moment and humbly become aware of them because they are opportunities for awakening. They are aspects of ourselves, severed from our awareness, tied up in holding onto perceptions of separation, helplessness and pain.
By looking at our shadows with compassion and understanding, they provide us with the mineral-rich pond scum from which our inner pure, white lotus can bloom. Roses grow best in manure. The lotus arises from the mud.
We must not judge that which we fear, that which we deem dirty, or unspiritual, because when we accept the gift of the mud, the flower can bloom. It is all part of and within the whole. When we find the self-love and courage to address our shadows, we move, in a more grounded, humble manner, into the fullness of life. We become the unaffected beings of light that we most naturally are.
Until next week,
Love yourself.
Love others.
Love our world.
We are one Earth family.