I was asked the other day how I deal with being around others, particularly when there’s a level of pretending or not speaking your truth that seems to be required of you.
I too know all too well this feeling of suffocation in the company of others. The subtle unsaid permissions of what you can say, which topics you can touch on and how deep that can go. The unsaid permissions that someone can’t give for fear of threatening their own sense of Self, views and place in the world that they hold so tightly so as to keep the facade of security and knowingness intact.
I think this is why the idea of Sanghas can be so enticing, a place to commune with others who were of like mind and place in their journey of unfoldment, of seeing. A place when you can find common ground and openness, common experience and views. Alas it’s not as easy as it sounds to find the ‘right’ sangha!
You are lucky if you can find this in a partner or in a close friend or two – this is what I have with Martyn and this is what I am eternally grateful for. Alone together and full permission and delight of me to be me and him to be him. The freedom to be as we are, the freedom to plumb the depths and go anywhere – no ‘sacred cows’ that are off-limits.
You asked how I deal with the difficulty of pretending with others. Firstly I take plenty of time to go into my aloneness, isolation and unknowingness and revel in the freedom to be. This place of ‘only don’t know’ is such a beautiful place to be. Beautiful and vulnerable. Delicate, embracing and loving but powerful and full of strength. It’s in this space that we can truly see ourselves and breath in the fullness of existence. Taking this time of solitude is incredibly important, especially for me being the hermit and introvert that I am.
But these days when I am with others I find myself laying it all out to bare, trusting in this process and letting the chips fall where they may. Standing in my truth, being open and honest and trusting. Trusting that even if I get push-back or hurt that I can handle it, that they can handle it too and the freedom to be me, the freedom for them to be them is much more important than any particular outcomes. It has meant the loosing and changing of many relationships, but it has also meant the discovery of those relationships that can withstand this vulnerable nakedness of openness and truth that I find myself standing in.
Then of course there are those relationships where masking and pretending is absolutely necessary. Practically speaking I try to minimise the amount of time spent in these types of interactions, that certainly helps. Making sure that I do have plenty of alone time and nourishing relationships where masking and pretending isn’t needed so that there is capacity for those relationships where it’s not possible. Also in those interactions to find as much openness and compassion as is available in any given moment. To not shame or blame the need to protect, defend or set unsaid boundaries, but honoring and accepting those boundaries where we find them. Understand that they are often there for a reason, even if it’s a reason I (or they) can’t see or understand.
From a broader view of this topic generally for me it was the attachments to outcomes and desires in terms of interactions and relationships that had to go. The attachment to the desire of people liking me, people seeing me, the desire to looking a certain way, to be loved or even liked. Even the attachment to the desire to connect deeply or in a certain way, to be understood and acknowledged.
The power in the lack of attachment has been enormous for me, scary but completely freeing. I have nothing to lose, I have no rights to certain outcomes of how I think things should go. I just am who I am in any moment, it’s raw and risky feeling but it’s real and honest. And so in this I’m eternally grateful for what I do have, for all that comes across my path, forget about ‘good’ and ‘bad’.
There is only so much that one can repress and suffocate themselves, the cracks begin to show. The holes start forming and things start to escape in more violent and unpredictable ways.
I encourage you to breath into the fullness of your experience, let the chips fall where they may and find those moments, those people, those spaces, those pages even, where you can freely be YOU.
There is a mask that we’ve all experienced. Many even have several masks, each for a different set of circumstances, a different set of people. The mask that you wear for your boss is not the same mask that you wear for your grandmother, which is not the same mask you wear for your friends. All a partial view of who you are, what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking.
But what happens when the cracks in the mask begins to show? What happens when that mask full of pretense and fake smiles becomes heavy and suffocating? When the toll of not showing the full range of your human experience, showing your whole vulnerable self becomes unbearable. What happens when you find that mask slipping off or not fitting anymore? So what then?
Can you leave the mask off, let it fall away, step out from hiding behind it and accept your reality? Or do you go back to trying to shove it back on and avoiding? What if it was supposed to crack, can you accept that? Accept that life has other plans for you right now, plans that you maybe can’t see, and certainly can’t control.
Can you be brave and stand up straight, hold your head high and walk forward into this next moment without reference to past, without wallowing in self pity? Can you hold your arms up to life and say, “Okay life, I’m ready for what you want of me, I’m here, I’m open and I’m listening.”?
If you say you’re done wearing this broken mask a million times does it make it so? Saying “I’m done” doesn’t make it so. BE done. Not tonight, not tomorrow, right now. It’s an action and a movement that rises up from within. An action that you can notice happening spontaneously. An action of Grace saying not next, not back there, but here – right now. Stay present. Drop any thought that says otherwise. Cast aside any thought that draws you into past and into future.
Life is making the wearing of this mask too painful, too impossible. So listen. Listen to life. Life is making it clear… “no more mask”. Can you stand true and listen to life, can you open yourself up to that vulnerability and stand naked without the safety of your mask, your mask that is so painful, so heavy, so constricting. What happens then? What happens when you set aside your mask and stand naked without it?
You are believing yourself to be weak and small, but maybe the cracks that you’re trying to hold together with sticky glue and tape actually were correct all along. Maybe they needed to break open. Maybe you can’t be contained by this false mask, this false shell anymore. Maybe the light that shines from within is making its escape through those cracks.
You find your life is falling apart. So what makes you think that it’s correct to try and tape and hold it back together? What happens when you let go?
I know it’s difficult. But when life falls apart you have two choices…. try and put it back together or acknowledge it and move on. Acknowledge that life wants something else for you, life is going in a different direction for you. So which will it be? The old or the new?
You’ve interacted with life in a particular way, with the mask and conditioning that has got you this far. Now life is taking that away from you. Now life is giving you the chance to move in a different way, without these crutches. They were only ever temporary, they were always going to fail at some point.
Life is for you, not against you. But it’s not necessarily in alignment with the mind’s ideas about what’s best. It’s in alignment with what’s actually needed, not what you think is needed. So where does your loyalty lie? With the mind’s ideas about what’s best, or life, reality, truth? Do you hold on to these ideas, or do you move forward, boldly step into this moment of life, raw, open, vulnerable but most of all with the strength of conviction that this is the only way. Will you falter? Will you stay loyal to the past? Or will you bow your head in acknowledgement that life has far bigger plans than the mind can conceive of.
When a door closes life is giving you an opportunity to walk through the window that it has just opened. To try another way. To leave behind the burdens of your past, to let go of the heavy mask of personhood. This is your chance to step up, to step out, to move beyond yourself, your small, controlling, afraid mind. To step into the darkness of unknowing with the light of Self and say, “Not today, today I make a different choice, today I choose myself not those doubts and fears. Today I take off my mask for the last time and stand free in the vast expanse of it all.”
Step into your new reality, step into your own light. It’s right here now and it cannot be overshadowed, it cannot be taken away. It’s right at the core of your being and you don’t need to run away from it any more.
All your choices have led to this, they are not something to be ashamed of, they are not something to second guess. Your choices ARE your path, your path has lead you to crack open, for the mask to become unbearable. Your choices are choice-less and so all you can do is accept that it’s all Grace. Every single choice, every single thought, it’s all Grace. Grace doesn’t pick and choose, it’s all of it. The sun doesn’t pick and choose what flower to shine on, it shines on all.
Don’t dwell on your past, it will do you no good. Accept where you are, see that it’s all meant to be exactly as it is. Life’s showing you that you’re not in control and whatever is happening is just part of your path.
Let your old life go, let it fall apart and be ready and willing to step into the great unknown, ready for Grace to show the way. But you can’t take your baggage and past with you. All you have is this moment. Your past does not define you, this moment does, and this moment is gone as soon as it came. So be undefinable, just BE.
Where you see brokenness and endings, I see beginnings and the shell of personhood breaking away to reveal your true Self – open, fresh and full of possibilities.