Param Srikantia (Deva Anugraha) explores the meaning of masks particular to the recent times. Published on cleveland.com, July 26, 2020.
At first glance, the very title of this essay appears out of touch with the harsh ground-level realities when millions are struggling to make ends meet. Yet, at no other time is the invitation to explore our hidden potential and to embrace ourselves as sacred beings more important than at a time when our world, as we know it, is crumbling.
As Osho, the prolific Indian mystic whose 2,000 books can inspire us in this global crisis said, the first step in recovery is to fix the most important relationship in our lives — the one we have with ourselves.
Yet, it is the single most important determinant of our effectiveness at work, our ability to love our partners deeply or to help our children blossom. When a person is being physically violent or emotionally hurtful to another human being, you can be sure that their relationship to their own self is deeply fractured.
Osho used the phrase “unsobbed tears” to refer to experiences of sadness, shame and pain that we carry deep within us because we did not allow ourselves to grieve fully. Often, we wear masks that only serve to conceal the suppressed emotions and cover up the wounds.
Awakening to our hidden potential begins with increasing our awareness, acceptance and compassion for the struggles we have lived through. Otherwise, there is a voice that Osho calls “the internal condemner” constantly criticizing us for not doing or being enough, leaving us perpetually discontented.
I wear three masks to cover up my shame – “nice,” “smart” and “goofy” – and each of these masks emerged as a coping mechanism. I was considered stupid as a kid, so I spent 16 years earning multiple advanced degrees and donned the compensatory mask of “smartness.”
From the time I was 16 until I was 30, my face was deformed by an acute skin condition, and I developed a mask of “niceness” to avoid social rejection.
When I felt intimidated by having to teach in a foreign culture, I developed a mask of “goofiness” in order to entertain my students.
Now, my students will tell you that “Param is a nice, smart and goofy guy,” but beneath these masks is hidden the pain and shame from my past.
Such masks are so deeply wired into us that rather than peel them, we need to grow in self-awareness. Osho called attention to a cosmic joke: We try to compensate for our insecurity and become unique, special and extraordinary through our accomplishments. But we forget that each one of us has already been created unique, special and extraordinary – there is no other person exactly like any one of us on the entire planet!
This is an awakening that can move us from the constant stress of proving our worth to accepting ourselves unconditionally. Our masks will give us an illusion of success, but they will keep us from courageously exploring beyond our comfort zone.
Unconditional self-acceptance can heal our broken relationship with ourselves and can unleash the confidence to explore the mystery of our hidden potential.
How we treat others is a direct reflection of how we relate to ourselves. This relationship with ourselves is seldom explored, either in our schools or in our workplaces. While we try to teach kids about how to relate to others, we leave out the most important piece of how to relate to oneself.
cleveland.com – Image by Osho News, credit Unsplash