Posted On 14 May 2010
Natural masks are false faces that, at least occasionally, we present to others.
A false face can be useful. For example, it usually seems appropriate on the job. Even if you don’t feel like it, it’s advisable to project the image of a competent, efficient servant in an even, calm manner. Good business advice: keep smiling and asking potential clients, “How may I serve you?”
This is an example of how natural masks can reduce friction in interpersonal relationships.
However, wearing a natural mask has a high cost. Why?
It prevents openness. To love is to understand the beloved deeply and to encourage whatever is best for the beloved. Suppose, for example, that I want to be your friend, that I want to love you. How can I do that without understanding you? If you are not open with me, I cannot understand you deeply. Hiding is the opposite of being open. If you hide from me, you prevent me from loving you. So the wearing of false faces fosters loneliness. It costs emotional energy and increases dissatisfaction.
Furthermore, wearing a natural mask is not always effective in hiding us from others. Folks who know us aren’t totally lacking in insight. So a false face may not fool others as much as we think it does; in fact, by wearing them, we may be fooling ourselves more than we are fooling others.
Wearing natural masks is untruthful. How could we live well by deliberately trying to conceal the truth?
Why are we tempted to wear masks? Is it because without them we have not received unconditional love? Is it because without them we fear just being ourselves?
Is it because without them we think others will find in us nothing of value? Here is an opportunity for self-examination. Please ask yourself: ‘Why do I wear natural masks? Wouldn’t it be better not to feel it necessary to wear them?”
Why not awaken to the fact that there is nothing [no separate self] to protect?
Instead of squandering emotional energy trying to hide from others, why not channel that emotional energy into freeing yourself from bondage to self and love others?
The truth is that I lack a separate (substantial) self. Aren’t you the same? If so, are you afraid that others will discover the emptiness within you?
We create narrative stories, which are continuing personalities or invented selves, to shield our inner emptiness from others. We attach very strongly to the personal identities we have so lovingly created. We cling to our own fictions!
Since there are no such separate entities, we must work incessantly to prop up our own stories. What a waste!
Why do we keep doing that? We are afraid to let go. So we hold ourselves apart, keep ourselves separated, from others. This attachment to self poisons love. Our problem is egocentricity and, like masochists, we are doing it to ourselves!
What’s the cure?
Letting go. Why not adopt a daily practice letting go of all false faces? That’s what any effective spiritual practice such as zazen meditation enables us to do.