The Celts believed that on the night before their new year, (October 31), the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred and ghosts came back to the earthly world.
People believed that if they left their homes after dark, they would encounter ghosts. To avoid being recognized by these ghosts, they would wear masks so the ghosts would mistake them for fellow spirits.
What does a mask symbolize?
The first line of Paul Lawrence Dunbar's poem, "We Wear the Mask” says it well: “We wear the mask that grins and lies, it hides our cheeks and shades our eyes”. This says that people must “mask” how they really feel.
In the poem, we interpret the ways in which people wear a mask to hide their true thoughts and emotions:
- He wears the mask because he does not want to “let them see” what an excruciating state he is in.
- She wears the mask because she does not want to trouble the world with her personal struggles and frustrations.
- We wear the mask to protect our vulnerable inner true selves.
- Wearing the mask hides our “torn and bleeding hearts” to pretend nothing is wrong; and act like we are fine and content with society.
- The mask facilitates our need to fit in, and project social conformance.
- The mask is a useful form of coping that helps us handle the difficulties of social life.
Are YOU wearing a mask?
They concluded that the stress of being in an environment which does not embrace being genuine or aligned with one’s values can lead to poor performance and health problems associated with stress.
There is wonderful symbolism in the following story taken from the book, “Crack Your Egg” by Henk Schram:
“In 1957, a monastery in Thailand was being relocated.
A group of monks was responsible to move a giant clay Buddha statue.
In the midst of the move, one of the monks noticed a crack in the statue. This concerned them about damaging the statue, so they decided to delay before continuing with their task.
Later on, another monk came to check on the giant statue: He shined his flashlight over the entire Buddha to inspect it...
When he reached the crack, he saw something shiny reflect back at him!
Obviously, this piqued his curiosity. He used a hammer and chisel and began chipping away at the clay. As he knocked off piece after piece, the statue got brighter and brighter.
After hours of work the monk looked up in amazement:
Lo and behold - right before him was a huge standing solid golden Buddha!
The monks decided that if they were able to make the golden Buddha appear to be a mere stone statue, the Burmese wouldn't see any value in it. The army did, in fact, see the stone Buddha, and left it as the monks had hoped, untouched.
Sadly, in the attack, all the monks were killed, along with the knowledge of the golden Buddha.
It wasn't until centuries later that this great treasure was accidentally discovered.
It was simply forgotten that underneath the superficial clay was pure, solid gold.
Is There A Message Here?
As we build our protective shell, we eventually begin to believe that we are the "stone Buddha," and forget about the ‘pure gold’ that remains inside.
Then something might happen in our lives... an uncomfortable experience that cracks our protective casing. It could be an injury... a divorce... a financial setback... the death of a loved one...losing a job... having our house foreclosed on... anything that shakes us to our core…the ‘wake-up call’!
The protective 'shell' couldn't keep the experience at bay, so we undergo the kind of discomfort it was designed to protect us from. And because of the emotional turmoil that comes with it, we often miss the point of the experience.
Because in that moment, when a piece of our armor is knocked off, we're presented with an opportunity.
We can look inside and see ‘our long-forgotten gold’ – the treasure that was always hidden within.
We're actually being called to chip away our clay casing, uncover the inner gold that has been concealed, and finally reveal our innate riches that have always been there, waiting for us!
It's in these moments of opportunity we have the chance to break out of our shell and shine bright again! To chip away our clay and reveal that inner gold.
Our 'gold' is so much more beautiful, so much more satisfying, and so much more fun!”
Now, The Big Question!
In ‘Themindsjournal.com’, it says: “You know, the part where you’re no longer a caterpillar and not yet a butterfly. You don’t know who you are, and you don’t know where you’re going. All you know is that every fiber of your being is calling for transformation. For a disruption, a revolution of the spirit. So, surrender. Breakdown. This is not the death of you. This is the dying of who you once were. This is your rebirth. And these are called growing pains.”
“Authenticity is about enjoying a new sense of freedom to be who we really are -- ourselves, natural and without a mask in our relationships, our work, and our life.”
Mike Robbins, motivational keynote speaker, coach, and a bestselling author.
The flip side of that coin is the impact inauthenticity can have on one’s health. The stress of being in an environment which does not embrace being genuine, or aligning with one’s values, can, not surprisingly, lead to a laundry list of health problems associated with stress.
Like the Celts, 2000 years ago, it’s okay to wear a mask on Halloween, …to deter the evil spirits.
But, for the 364 other days, TAKE OFF YOUR MASK!
Life is too short to not live free from the stress of wearing a mask.