Your Mental Health: Mindfully Letting Down the Mask
Anyone who has ever gone through a time in their life where they haven’t felt well, whether it was depression or anxiety, is all-too-familiar with the process of putting on a mask in order to function in everyday life. This is the minds way of protecting itself against the thick black paste of emotions that may enter in and devour us at any moment. This strategy may have saved us as children, allowing us to cope in an unsettling environment, but the strategy is outdated and is not the most effective now. The problem is, the mask is on so tight now, that we wouldn’t dare try and take it off for fear that what lies underneath will drag us down into a pit from which we will never return.
We have so much fear inside of us. But it is critical for us to understand that this mask, while it had its day, is hindering our ability to actually experience life, both the pleasant and the unpleasant. It’s as if it is helping us to just survive and when we’re just surviving we’re blocking out both uncomfortable and comfortable emotions. Optimally, we would be able t let down this mask and be able to radically accept ourselves as we are moment-to-moment creating greater self-acceptance, peace and harmony. But this is a gentle process, so how do we do it? The primary step is to acknowledge and accept the reality that there is a mask there.
Here’s how to get to know the mask and let it down:
The mask is easiest to notice as tension that resides physically on the entire body, including the head. Take a moment (and you can do this now) to sense into any tension that you may be feeling right now. See if you can bring an attitude of non-judgment to it or notice if there are any judgments, let them be, and then gently come back to feeling into the body from the bones, to the muscles to the skin. Notice any holding, tension, or tightness.
Now, as you breathe, focus on breathing with these areas. In other words, imagine your breath moving in and out of these areas of tension with each in and out breath. If you can allow them to soften go ahead and do so, if not, just watch this tension as if you’re noticing it for the very first time. Practice this for a few minutes time. In Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy we can say to ourselves “open” on an in breath, and “soften” on and out breath.
If you practice these during pre-scheduled times of the day, you can then begin to practice it during moments of greater dis-ease when you really notice the mask coming up.
Try this out knowing that each time you do this you are sending the message internally that you care about yourself, or even love yourself, which is the greatest healing of all.
As always, please take a moment to share your thoughts, questions, and stories below. Your interactions here provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
Goldstein, E. (2009). Your Mental Health: Mindfully Letting Down the Mask. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 13, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/05/your-mental-health-mindfully-letting-down-the-mask/