Last week I participated in a team building workshop with our newly formed team. We met in the facilitator’s art studio where she does art therapy with children and adults. We were shown the various materials that could be used: framed canvas, paper, poster and cardboards, stones, paints, sand, clay, colored beads, string, crayons, chalk, fabric and on and on. It was a child’s delight. As directed, we milled around and allowed ourselves to be drawn to whatever seemed appropriate to begin creating something.
Curiously I was drawn to a white life sized cardboard mask ready to be painted. Without hesitation I picked it up, put a few colors of paint on a small pallet, chose some brushes, took my place at the work table and began to paint the mask. I had no idea why I was painting a mask or what I wanted to do with it but I absolutely ‘knew‘ that I wanted and even needed to do this work/play. I started at the open spaces of the eyes painting upward and all across the forehead mixing yellow and red making a rich orange color.
I drew a line down the ridge of the nose and beneath each nostril dividing the lower half of the face and then, much to my surprise, found myself drawing seven tear drops that flowed down the line of the nose from one of the eyes. Intuitively I continued painting in a way that seemed as if the mask was painting itself. It was eventually complete, and there I was with an orange forehead, smiling red lips and the lower face beneath the eyes green on one side and yellow on the other; crying and smiling. What was this?
After a week of seeing the mask hanging on the wall above my desk and some deep reflection, I’ve come to realize that it’s a mirror of my life. It seems that I’ve been smiling and crying inside for a very long time. The crying was something I never let anyone see because ‘big boys’ don’t cry. I learned early on that my soft heart was unacceptable so I hid it, repressed it and denied it even to myself. Now I’m seeing that we all do the same thing. We all wear masks. We all hide our hearts. We’re all split and multicolored.
In the above quote by James Joyce I found a soul mate; one who spoke his truth and in so doing touched my heart. Now that I’m past the age of reason and live much more intuitively, I often find my eyes full of tears, a flood from my heart pouring itself out. I’m no longer embarrassed by it. Rather, I now appreciate that I’ve arrived at a place in life where I can embrace the deep compassion I feel for you, me and all creation. Here we allow our hearts to speak clearly of our human/divine condition. Here we are fully alive.
I have my mask propped up on the desk looking at me as I write this piece. He/She is beautiful just like you and me and the whole of humanity. His coat of many colors speaks clearly. Her tears and smile invite a change. The ask is to see this in every face, every disgrace, every trace of Life’s embrace. The tears speak from the Depths of our Being. The smile speaks to the Wonder of it All. Now when I look at you I look at me and see through the illusions into infinity. Now I see us being free. Masks? Be Aware . . .
- Today stand facing a mirror and look deeply into your eyes as a Lover would. Stay with this for at least three minutes then close your eyes and feel the beauty, the goodness, the depth and truth of who you really are. Repeat this exercise twice a day for the next month and see what changes within you . . .
- Become aware of your breathing and slow it way down. In this breathing meditation open your heart to all the roads traveled and not traveled. Allow a gentle inner reflection on the tears that have been shed over the years and the smiles that have embraced so many miles. Honor the feelings as they emerge and cherish them . . .
- As you walk through your days, bring awareness to the masks you wear and what they’re covering up, what you’re hiding from. Be kind to your many selves and gently ask them of their fears, their tears and their cheers. Make it a practice to give thanks, love, laugh and learn. Your masks can be your best teachers when you see them . . .