The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a new essential piece of clothing: face masks that protect us and others from getting infected with the virus. Meanwhile, we got used to wearing them even though they can make us feel uncomfortable. We’ve learned to read from someone else’s eyes rather than their whole face. Combined with physical distancing, it’s not always an easy job. On the other hand, there are situations where we appreciate wearing a face mask not only for its protection, but as an opportunity to hide our expressions.
The thing is though, we are always wearing masks – the invisible kinds. Every day, without even noticing, we put on not only one but many layers of masks for similar reasons just like the visible ones: to protect us and, sometimes, those around us, too. We have layers for every occasion; below are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
A variety of layers…
Private layer, only visible to me
This includes every known emotion from fear to love, laughing to crying, anger to joy, anxiety to trust, greed to generosity, self-doubts to self-confidence, judgment to acceptance, confusion to clarity, impatience to gratitude, and everything in between.
Family layer, visible to ourselves and our loved ones
Note: within family are sub-layers like wife, partner, dad, sibling, cousin etc.
Similar to the private layer yet can be different in expression. Softer, louder, slower, faster. Ever changing.
Friend layer, visible to ourselves and friends
Note: within friend layers are sub-layers, like best friend, close friend, former friend etc.
This can be a combination of private and family layers and vary depending on the state of the friendship.
Job layer, visible to ourselves, co-workers, employees, managers
Note: within job layer are sub-layers like team-member, customer, supplier, shareholder etc.
This layer is usually, the most controlled with all of the above mentioned emotions laying and/or hidden underneath.
The list is endless, you get the idea. Now you might ask yourself, “If there’s only one “I”, why don’t we just live from there instead of making such an effort to wear all these different layers?”
Make friends with your Ego
It’s because “I” is the Ego, and Ego wants to take control. Always. If something doesn’t go its way, Ego gets angry, anxious, impatient, tight and tense. Dealing with uncertainty is Ego’s nightmare, and even when things seem to be under its control, it’s never satisfied or content. Ego lives from a state of fear, because it’s constantly anxious, afraid it will fail. But we don’t want to blame the Ego, we want to invite it to be friends so that we can use its positive aspects. Occasionally, a little bit of Ego can serve us to achieve the goals we set. Writing and publishing this text for example, requires a bit of my Ego, but my intention was not to get overruled by its critics. If that would have been the case, you wouldn’t read this article.
Being constantly exhausted, because of trying desperately to hold on things that are simply out of its control and not its business, Ego needs compassion. What kind of advice would you give your best friend when you see her suffering from being overworked? Exactly. “Give yourself a break!” Getting there can be a bumpy road, because we are so used to being controlled by the Ego. Eventually we identify with it and think this is who we are. In fact, the Ego is the largest mask we are wearing by letting it cover our Highest Self, which is our Source of love, joy, compassion, and equanimity.
Meet your Highest Self
But where is the “escape” button that brings us home from the giant masked ball what we call our reality, to that peaceful, silent space? Here, meditation comes to play. During meditation, we are traveling from activity to silence, from the chattering mind to a restful place. Our mind-body system slows down, and so does Ego. It makes space for our Highest Self. Regular meditation practice trains our awareness, and this is half the battle. Whenever you’re aware that Ego is giving you a hard time, ask yourself “Who is taking control?”
To make it a bit more practical, try this little exercise:
Ask: “Who is taking control?”
Take a few nice, deep breaths.
Soften and relax.
“The scientist asks: ‘What happens, when, where, how?’Dr. Rudy Tanzi, Professor of Neurology, Harvard University
The engineer asks: ‘How can I make it happen?’
The philosopher asks: ‘Why does it happen?’
The enlightened asks: ‘Who is asking’?”
So, let’s get rid of all these needless invisible masks and enjoy the variety of costumes, just for fun instead of pretending we are Wonder Woman, Batman or playing any other unnatural role. In fact, we all possess Superhero qualities and just need to allow them to come through when it serves us and those around us. Living a less Ego-based life is liberating and brings joy, playfulness, creativity, and lightness to our mind-body system and the entire world.
To your journey,
“I want to sing like the birds sing,
not worrying about who hears or what they think.”