As we journey along on our spiritual path, it is sometimes easy to think of our old self and new self as two different individuals. Our “new” self is so much more enlightened, right? However, sometimes even the spiritually enhanced version of ourselves still hides behind a mask – a spiritual disguise.
Aalif Surti lends us a humorous take on how even therapists, healers, and seekers put on a spiritual display:
The Buddha Mask: You’ve seen the statue, now meet the person. Unaffected by others, far removed from worldly emotions, this mask says: You can’t touch me… I am beyond it all. Behind it hides sensitivity, fear and confusion. During my early Vipassana days, some people called me ‘aloof’ instead of ‘aalif’!
The Positivity Mask: Those who practice affirmations and positive thinking sometimes feel compelled to uphold an abnormally high frequency of ecstasy. Ask them how they are, and an automated voice reply comes: “AMAZING! Life is full of miracles!!” But when it is a mask, their eyes, their energy, and their aura tell a different story.
The ‘Superior-Seeker’ Mask: They enter a room, and the whole room suddenly feels unworthy. They carry a subtle air of superiority. They are on the high road to heaven and they smile beatifically upon all the creepy crawlies with an air of cultivated compassion. Proving superiority all the time is a dead giveaway for a sense of inferiority inside.
The Messiah Mask: They are out to change the world – one flailing, resisting human at a time. These are the givers of support and nurturance and advice… whether anyone asks for it or not! But give they must, because they need to avoid the confusion and emptiness within. A beautiful, socially approved mask and hence more difficult to let go of…
The Pundit Mask: References obscure texts and uses big Sanskrit words. Will disrupt a conversation to quote a 16th century Indian mystic or a little-known modern non-dual teacher. It’s a mask when they talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.
The Lost-in-Space Mask: They find a way to bring Pleaedians, Archangels and Entities into every normal conversation. They would interrupt you to whisper conspiratorially that there’s a 6th dimensional entity behind you right now! They take name-dropping to a whole new dimension.
While the masks may be twisted and rigid, the people underneath these masks are not foolish or nasty. They are you and me, GD said, innocently trying to cover up a wound of not-being-enough by putting on a show. Masks are a way of saying ‘I am special’ but ironically, each mask ends up proving the opposite: each mask reveals a lack of self-love and self-acceptance-as-I-am.
All of us play a variety of roles in life. When we are conscious of the role playing, there is no problem. Masks are problematic because they are compulsive and unconscious, and the behavior comes from ego not insight.
And whenever the ego creates a mask, it has to suppress the opposite in oneself – a compulsive giver finds it hard to ask for help; the intellectual ceases to listen and ask questions; Buddha-face cannot show vulnerability or intimacy when needed.
When someone asked my mentor at the end of a workshop how he could prevent the mask from coming back on later, he replied, “Make a joke of it, phone us all up and say: ‘Hey look, my mask is back!’ The moment you become aware, it loses its power. And once you make it a joke, it disappears.”
And in the absence of masks, he reminded us, we can become like the beautiful little children we all are inside – who can be all of the above when required – and their exact opposite when required – without holding onto any particular face.