• What’s Your Mask?

    I love Halloween. It’s a brief opportunity to replace our day-to-day masks with more outrageous ones. The metaphorical masks we wear the other 364 days of the year are all designed to somehow make us appear more appealing to the world at large, which often works to get us more of the things we want. It’s just so freakin’ exhausting to keep walking around in them.

    We all started out mask-less and gloriously authentic, but our authenticity quickly got buried under the masks we started accumulating. Over and over, we got the message, implicitly and explicitly, that “image is everything,” and “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” My friend who works in sales for a large publishing company likes to quip, “Anybody who says you can’t judge a book by its cover never tried to sell one.” The cover is all we judge by! And all of us want us our covers to be the shiniest, most impressive covers we can manage to project.

    But for just this one day, we can play around with our covers and try on a new mask. Sure, we might still be guided by the desire to impress and be noticed – it’s pretty much hardwired into our programming. But we’ve got some temporary wiggle-room to let those denied bits of us peek through.

    Outlaws. Pirates. Vampires. What makes these caricatures so attractive is their raw lustiness for life and their powerful determination to satisfy their instincts – such a stark contrast to the restriction-laden existence we all contend with as payment for inclusion in our society. It’s no wonder children and teens are generally more enchanted by pirate stories and vampire chick-lit than adults are. They haven’t had as long to become anesthetized to their deepest instincts to live fully and freely, sucking the marrow from life and blissfully operating from their authentic core beings.

    Imagine a bird in a cage in the springtime. All of the bird’s biological needs are comfortably met. He is well cared for by owners who love him and keep his cage clean and practice all of the very best pet-care policies. But the bird feels a stirring in him that he doesn’t understand. It seems he should be doing something. He doesn’t know what it is because he’s never built a nest, found a mate, migrated, or searched for worms in his whole life, yet there’s some longing in him to work and create and follow his instincts – a longing he’s unable to satisfy or even explore.

    The bird’s anguish is our anguish. All the masks we’ve accumulated over the years have built our cages. We can’t connect with our natural human instincts and intuition because they’re buried, along with our true core selves, beneath these layers. But with awareness and conscious effort, we can peel away the masks. We can strain to hear our faint, stifled inner voices. Unlike the imprisoned bird, we can choose to open the cage and liberate ourselves to fulfill our instinctual destinies.

    In honor of Halloween, I hereby give you permission to unearth your outlaw nature. Invite up those scurrilous, denied bits of you. Exalt them. Embrace them. Once you’ve brought these secret aspects of you out into the light of your consciousness, you can choose to own them and balance them with all the other fabulously authentic parts of you that comprise a full, vital human being.

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