We create masks. We have the I am my work mask (more like work is my life mask), the my kids' successes are a reflection of me mask (boy, don't I know it. When Alex won a 1st Place at Pebble I wrote about it to everyone...well, almost everyone, same with Red's grades and rowing, and Dagen's rowing and singing), the my clothes, car, and house are me mask. My husband's career is me mask. The list goes on and on.
Then something rocks our world and our world as we know it comes tumbling down. They say change happens mostly in three ways: environmentally (like a natural disaster or something), circumstantially (like a divorce or marriage or job change or loss) or painfully painfully slowly. We are for the most part change-averse and I think the reason is that it requires and even forces us to unmask. And when we unmask we really don't even know what's underneath.
In ancient traditions the process of unmasking is done as a rite of passage under the tutelage of elders -those who have gone before and lived to tell the story. And while the work is individual it is done within the construct of a group. Tasks are created for each individual and the group holds the container. There are three phases that make up this ritual of moving from masked self (immaturity) to unmasked self (maturity).
In the case of the ancient tribal rites of initiation the phases are literal and again done as a group. There is the Severance - being separated from the tribe in a way that is uncomfortable and in preparation for the arduous journey of unmasking. Then the Threshold - a time of no time where up is down, down is up and there are no links to what is known to be true. It's a stripping away of each and every layer of security and habits. The initiate has to rely solely on opening the way to inner messages and hopefully some sign from the Spirit. It's a true life or death test. It's a place of uncertainty of what is real, a dissolving of everything and a shattering of the construct of the hologram of reality. and then the Return - where the inner knowing and the passing of the tests are brought back to the tribe.
But what about if you live in here and now, without a tribe, elders, shamans, or a good witch. Then your unmasking is done solo. Your on your own, baby.
I was reading about the NFL Linebacker Keith Mitchell who suffered a paralyzing injury and could no longer rely on his work and all the trappings that came with it to identify with who he was. Without the 'game' who was he? He writes, "I realized how common it is to mask our insecurities,emotions, and vulnerabilities, leaving our spirit feeling empty, detached, and unnurtured. The practice of yoga and meditation allow these hidden holes in us to be filled with acceptance, purpose, and love." ~Keith Mitchell (keithmitchell59.com)
We spend so much of our time covering up the gaping holes in our soul with more stuff, better stuff, and work so we can continue to identify with the stuff we already have or the stuff we want. So we decide - on one particular day where we take a look and see that it's all bullshit - to change. We decide that we're going to do the Work to unmask. And we start the process of peeling off layer by layer to get to the core. The only thing is that when we close in on the core of us we don't even know what it looks like to be core-like in our day by day lives.
I know. I've been there. And I'm still there working through it. Layer by layer, practice by practice. If anyone tells you that you can do this in a weekend or in three easy steps they're cray cray...because each time we peel off a layer we're at a place we don't recognize - we change. The world changes. Our reactions to outside influences have to change. Our old standby mechanisms don't work anymore - even if I wanted them to, they don't work. (Wallowing in self-pity with a glass of wine? Nope, doesn't feel the same. Watching TV and eating junk food? Nope, no satisfaction). So if our old standbys don't work then what? This is where a daily practice comes in. It's a must. Practice becomes habit and habit becomes lifestyle. And while we're at it...no more licking our wounds about not having a tribe or a formal rite of passage...we do...it's called authentic living.