I don’t remember the first time it happened.
But I’m sure I was young when I first donned that mask that would allow me to be accepted, liked, loved.
Maybe when I pretended not to be upset.
Or laughed at a joke that I actually found offensive.
When I said, “Nothing” to the question, “What’s wrong?”
Or when I somebody asked how I was and I said, “Fine” when really I was trembling with sadness, shame or rage on the inside.
We learn at a young age to mold our outsides to be acceptable to those we love most, to those who don’t even know us at all.
I did it just the other day when my best friend of 37 years came over so we could go to dinner and a movie. I’d just gotten home from teaching, the house was a mess because I just didn’t feel like cleaning. But I did this brisk 30-minute clean before she arrived.Why? She is the last person who would judge me for anything much less having a messy house. I was judging me.
And there it is.
I judge myself harshly and then feel compelled to pretend I am other than who I am.
Yoga has helped with this. Not just the poses. We all know that the poses are the very tip of the yoga iceberg. The more I practice, the more I show up to my mat just as I am on any given day and do what I can do on any given day, the more I am peeling away those layers of masks.
Some days I just need Child’s Pose and Savasana. That’s it. I’m done.
Other days I need to sweat and move and build strength.
The biggest revelation is that one day is not better than the other. They are just days. Days when I show up to my mat. And when I show up to my mat, I show up to myself.
No matter what I do when I show up to my practice, whether it’s Child’s Pose or Warrior or Crow, I am shifting energy. Energy that has gotten stagnant and stuck in my body. When I come out of a pose that has gotten to be too much, I am honoring who I am, not trying to prove I am something I’m not. Same when I pass on going deeper into a pose just because the teacher suggests it.
Yoga has been about learning to trust myself. Trust my body. Trust what I feel. Trust what I need. Trust what I believe. Trust in the Universe.
And when I deeply trust who I am, there’s no need to wear a mask.