"The masks we wear are simply veils that we have chosen to hide behind in order to get our way, or to demonstrate how we are reacting to the powers and forces that seem to influence us from the external world. They are part of our self image, and in some cases the mask is nothing more than a protective device, a defense mechanism." -- John Randolph Price
The recent observation of Halloween brought back memories of the first time, many years ago, Diane and I picked up our two grandchildren, Cailin and James, to go trick-or-treating. James, who was 8 years old at the time, was wearing a terrifying rubber mask of the grim reaper, while Cailin, who was six, wore no mask at all; she was going as the kindly "good wizard." When I asked her why she didn't have a mask on she very matter-of-factly replied, "Grandpa, good wizards can't hide behind a mask because nobody would know they were good." Once again, my teacher of the moment was this 6-year-old child.
The realization for me was that most of us tend to hide the goodness that inherently lies within, covered over by any number of masks. Of course the "goodness" I am referring to is the authentic self, or if you prefer, the perfection of divine presence that dwells within, waiting patiently for us to reveal It to the world by means of our actions, deeds and lifestyle. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it another way: "Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool." From a spiritual perspective there can be no doubt; within each of us lies a being so magnificent, so powerful... so good, but it has been covered over by the many masks we have slipped on over the years -- masks such as: the victim, the critic, the tyrant, the manipulator, the fanatic, the worrier, the controller, the perfectionist, the people-pleaser, the prideful, the opinionated, the meddler and the deceiver to name a few.
Of course, there are many more masks than these but it does give good "cause to pause" and think about which ones we might currently be wearing, doesn't it? What masks might you be able to add to the list that may have been covering over your inherent goodness? Most often we are wearing more than one of these masks and we are not even aware of it because they seem to fit so well, so comfortably; perhaps that is because the idea of change and taking them off is really what terrifies us. Perhaps we fear we won't know who we are without the mask. Irrespective of how the masks we wear got there, they are keeping us from revealing to the world the authentic self we came here to be.
At this point, one might ask: How would we even know when we are living from that authentic self and how can we identify the masks we may be wearing... and how can we remove them? As a mindfulness practice take another look at the different masks listed above and notice if you find yourself hiding behind any of them. If you choose, you can add a few more masks to the list. Write them down and begin to ask yourself why you have chosen these masks as part of what defines you to the world. Also, notice any temptation to deny what your heart may tell you is a mask you may have been wearing without even realizing it. Finally, be aware this is an exercise about you, not the others in your life whom may well have a wardrobe of masks of their own.
So, while you may have already answered that doorbell on Halloween to the chorus of children yelling "trick-or-treat," smile and let the memory of the occasion be a reminder that behind the many masks we all wear every day of our lives there lies the beauty of the goodness with which we were born -- the authentic self. That awareness is the sweetest treat ever.