Have you ever read The Madman by Kahlil Gibran? A part of it has been resonating in my mind all day long prompting, almost urging me to sit at my desk and observe how this post starts to breathe life.
“One day, long before many gods were born, I woke from a deep sleep and found all my masks were stolen…I ran maskless through the crowded streets shouting, “Thieves, thieves, the cursed thieves.”
Later on in the poem, the lucky madman thanks his robbers for taking away his masks as he starts to feel the warmth of the sun on his real face for the first time. Fate is always capricious and there are people who actually are freed from their masks by some turn of events. For the rest of us, taking off our masks is a slow and methodical process that may even take several lifetimes. In any case, what is important is to understand that this may be the one piece of work that explains our existence on this planet. Not that everything else is unimportant but results kind of trivial when compared to the stature of this task.
Removing these masks equals to peeling off the many layers of fake personalities that we have been accumulating throughout the years, be it consciously or unconsciously. These insidious programs are so embedded, so ingrained in our minds that we end up believing them and acting according to their mandate. They have been nesting in our minds for so long that identifying and exposing them (which means annihilating their power over us) requires a true detectivesque effort. The reward is, as in the case of our beloved Madman, freedom, life in truthfulness, understanding of our real nature, and consolidation of a peaceful mind and a compassionate heart.
Techniques to help us reach this balanced state run the gamut and are a staple on every single religion and philosophy of life. These techniques become extremely useful, mostly in the beginning of our quest, and offer both a foundation and a convenient lifesaver when things get too hairy. They include prayer, meditation, rituals, study of scriptures, routines such as yoga asana or tai chi, ceremonies, attendance to religious or spiritual services, spiritual cleansing, drumming, and many others.
However, as powerful as these techniques may be, they are nothing but a training for the real work and, I think, this is where many of us are getting very confused these days. You see, it is like training for the Olympics for four years but never participating in the games. Or rehearsing for the weekend play and never performing. We have become very good at religiously keeping up with our preferred technique (sometimes verging on addiction) but continue without doing the real work. Basically, we think the technique is the work. So, we need to take a good look at our relationship to it and decide whether we are using it as the means to and end or as the end itself. And if we are erroneously taking the technique for the end, what is the real end then?
Bluntly put, the real work is to really observe ourselves and start transforming everything that doesn’t belong to our personal, inner truth; beyond rules and regulations and traditions and any other external forms of indoctrination or knowledge. To delve into the dark side, the shadow, that part of us that we don’t like so much and usually try to hide from others. To acknowledge and embrace this shadow as a part of us, whether we like it or not. I said acknowledge, not indulge in it, just let it be part of your journey and things will be fine. This is the real work. A moment to moment, mindful observation of our behaviors, emotions, and reactions devoid of any charge of self-criticism, fear, or guiltiness. Do you want a clearer example? Every time an emotion such as fear, greed, anger, jealousy, envy, etc, surges, it is just an invitation to observe it and make a note of another aspect of your dark side. Remember, it has nothing to do with others, it is all about us and how we perceive reality.
Sounds too hard? Don’t worry, be MINDFUL!
“And I have found both freedom and safety in my madness; the freedom of loneliness and the safety from being understood, for those who understand us enslave something in us.”