By Ellie Davis
This mask-dropping has been a lifetime game.
I remember being very little and wondering what my parents were doing, pretending their jobs and misery were real. Maybe not those exact words in my mind at the time, but I remember being genuinely surprised when I realized that they thought those identities they had assumed were who they really were.
I also remember when I started putting on the mask myself. I mean, you have to look like your tribe if you want to survive, right?
Even if you wear the mask that they, your particular tribal leaders, tell you is the right mask for you, because it’s just like everybody else’s in the tribe, you have no guarantee of inclusion — especially if the mask is one of exclusion and separation. Sheesh! What kind of a game is this anyway? It’s like they set it up so you can never actually know the rules those older mask wearers made. Oh, right, because they did make the rules.
And so it went, never quite believing in my mask, but never knowing what the hell else to do. Sort of …
Luckily, my parents’ parenting was so far gone that I essentially raised myself. Strict religion? Yes. Angry force used when said mask was threatened? Yes. Inability of mask-wearing parents to love anything more than their own narcissistic depression? Hallelujah, yes!
Not even being flip here. I had a childhood filled with rejection, neglect, and Catholicism, which was eventually mixed with Holy Rollin’ Evangelicism — both of which favored a ”spare the rod, spoil the child” mentality.
Still not being flip. Because of my parents’ firm commitment to misery and isolation, it was so easy to find a rather large chink in the armor, so easy to see that something was dreadfully wrong. Due to their parenting style and the religious penal, I mean, educational system, the idea developed in me that since I couldn’t do anything right, I might as well do it my own way.
That thinking has served me quite well! I was so convinced of my inabilities that there was no way I would have survived university, so I educated myself with art, literature, real life; all of which taught me how to discern truth from bullshit. I love that my mind doesn’t belong to any conventional system.
I’ve had an interesting life flying under the radar of what adults are expected to do, but I was still plagued by the mask of my DNA, and the conditioning that what I was supposed to be was miserable. I believed there were too many things wrong with me to actually enjoy living — even when I was doing wild-n-crazy things that were supposedly the ”real” me.
Eventually I found my way to my career of healing the human through the body. Admittedly, I started doing massage because I figured it would get me out of the restaurant business without having to read text books. Who knew I would also find a latent talent!
In the course of my career, however, I’ve discovered that I’m not my body. I ride around in my body, and how I treat my body matters, but not to the point of neurotic body worship. This career path has shown me the difference between feeling sensations and true sensitivity vs. emotional reaction. That discovery recently brought me past believing that I am even my emotions or history, or beliefs. DIscovering what I’m not (body, emotions, history, beliefs) has greatly increased the efficacy of searching out what I am.
As I’ve been exploring this ”Self” that’s beyond thought, rational or irrational, I’ve discovered an ”ocean” that’s maybe inside me, or maybe that I’m part of, but that’s certainly more powerful than what I thought I was. It’s still, but not stagnant. This ocean feels everything going on inside me, and it knows that feelings, be they old or new, will not kill me; they can’t even harm me.
Not too long ago, I was given an opportunity to test this theory in a way that could have potentially brought me crashing back to my younger Danger Days.
I was in Amsterdam when ”Body Painting Day” was happening, and the woman I was visiting was one of the artists. When she asked if I wanted to join the body painting festivities, I thought, ”Yeah, why not? When in Amsterdam…”
In the days leading up to Body Painting Day, however, I kept wondering why I really wanted to walk through the streets of Amsterdam naked, save for paint. I didn’t need to prove anything to anybody. I don’t hate my body anymore, so it wasn’t about punishment or pretense, or anything along those lines, so what was it? I gave myself the option to back out, but I didn’t want to. At Museumpleine (you know, where the Van Gogh museum and loads of other museums are; where thousands of tourists go on a Saturday), I realized I was there because I wanted to see what it felt like.
I very simply wanted to know what it would feel like to be stone cold sober, completely aware, and stand naked in the heat, then rain, then chill, not trying to pretend I was in the tropics, but only feeling the weather. To stand naked in front of strangers, some of whom judged, some of whom appreciated (whatever it was they appreciated, be it art, daring, or body), some of whom were creepy, and not get hooked into anybody’s thoughts or opinions of me or my actions or my looks. I wanted to see if I was trying to make anyone believe I was making some great, noble statement, or trying to win their approval. Or disapproval. What happens if I just stand there and feel all of it, embrace all of it?
When I realized the immense calm and power of letting this experience pass through me; no walls, no hiding, no holding on, I knew that a tremendous chunk of my mask was gone. Certainly, there’s more to drop, but now that I don’t need to walk the streets of Amsterdam naked, I’m so curious as to how it will happen.
Ellie would like you to know that her parents have each, in their way, tried to face the past and take off the misery mask. She currently calls Sweden her main mask-dropping base, i.e., home. She helps other people drop their masks, too, using Chi Nei Tsang. And, sometimes she does that in Colorado. Check out www.bloomingbeing.com