Last night, I attended our First Friday art walk downtown, where a plethora of coffee shops, stores, and offices host showings of local artists work, which takes place on the first Friday of every month. One installment especially stood out to me at the Dana Gallery, where a series of masks were on display that had been made by young people of all ages residing at the Watson’s Children’s Shelter here in town. Accompanying each mask was a one-line description and the age and gender of the person who’d crafted it. Here are the ones I jotted down on location:
“My masks show that people only see part of who I really am. If people saw all of me they wouldn’t want to be friends with me.” 13-year-old girl
“My mask is a unicorn, crying rainbows.” 9-year-old girl
“My mask is wearing a mask. It says you can’t trust people even if they say you can.” 14-year-old boy
“My mask is crying rainbows because I’m supposed to be happy, but I’m sad.” 4-year-old boy
“My mask only covers my eyes. I don’t think people should cover up who they are.” 12-year-old girl
“My mask is a superhero. I wish I had superhero powers so I could protect people.” 10-year-old boy
“I don’t want to talk about my mask.” 3-year-old girl
“My mask has blood on it. And the black is meth and drugs.” 9-year-old boy
I thought the premise of these masks paired well with a meme I came across yesterday on twitter (pictured above).
It’s so terribly easy to hide who we are, isn’t it? To cover up, squelch, stuff, and ignore certain parts of who we are – to pretend we are something we’re not. And while we may be tempted to think there’s a simple one-answer reason for the masks we don, I think it’s a more complex issue involving a host of factors.
Why do we wear masks? Maybe we don’t want people to see us for who we are based on past experiences where we felt rejected. Maybe we haven’t found the type of people who have the ability to hold a safe space for us and are capable of listening deeply. Maybe we weren’t given any tools while growing up that enable us to form a healthy relationship with our self and our inner landscape. Maybe we have little ability to situate ourselves amid the realm of discomfort and we find it easier to just put on airs. Maybe we’re so used to finding ways in which to distract ourselves that we have no understanding whatsoever of what it means to be who we are.
From my own experience, the practice of meditation shows me how to come into my own skin with comfort, ease, and joy. Practicing the art of meditation allows the masks we fashion to wear amid our daily lives to slowly melt away, helping to reveal our true, unencumbered self.
The more I keep meditating, the freer I become of the ties that I bind myself with and the masks I lash together to hide behind. Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) teaches: Be beautiful, be yourself. I would further that by saying: Be beautiful, be yourself. Keep meditating.