Peter Matthiessen relating an encounter with Soen Nakagawa Roshi said, "...Then a red demon mask appeared from behind a sliding screen; the mask looked us over one by one, and the laughter died. When Soen dropped the mask, his face was serious. “I have taken off my mask,” he said. “Now take off yours.” Soen-roshi... Standing beneath a tattered old umbrella, in spring rain, he spoke of the great “weightless Buddha” in the city of Nara in central Japan. “See everything with hara,” (Your true center of gravity) he said, slapping his stomach two inches below the navel, “not just with eyes.”
Halloween is coming in about a week. Given our 2nd year of COVID-19, who knows what that will look like this year. One thing is for sure, some will be putting on an additional mask, to cover what is usually some version of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual insecurity that's on a spectrum.
To wear a mask in a certain way can force us to leave something behind. Since we're not seeing the person, place, or thing as it actually is, the thing most commonly left behind... on a spectrum... is authenticity... and integrity... which from my personal experience is the definition of spirituality, and by extension spiritual awakening. In fact for those in recovery from addiction it's a kind of ethos that in order to attain qualitative depth in recovery... healing... awakening... authenticity... integrity... that, "the masks have to go!" Addiction mind... self-obsession and self-centeredness... is thought masks wrapped around ego identity... and kind of like halloween being possessed by a demon... which in Eastern culture is code for "Ego..." or "Having a divided mind that's set abasing itself." That can be useful to know.
Zen meditation is a way of taking off the mask. Surprisingly to some, this can take a long time. Why? Because the mask sometimes gets stuck to our face. Cultural conditioning... experiences that revolved around lack of healthy connection within our self and others... especially those big and little "T" trauma based create a kind of adhesive, that can influence us not to have a sense of confidence or trust in ourselves. This can make for a really sticky mask that even when a person wants to remove their mask, it can turn out the mask can gain a life of its own. Ego is tricky like that. The result is that we're not exactly running out of people with "Broken-human-being," syndrome. Mask! Mask! Mask!
It kinda surprises me that people that complain so much about facial coverings with regards to COVID-19 have been wearing them all their lives. It's just that they're constructed out of addiction, Fear, anxiety, depression worry, anger, grievances... or money, power, property, titles, degrees, and prestige, which divert us from our primary purpose. To live with authenticity and integrity... in creative freedom... fully whole and wholly free. Fascinating! Denial... the inability to see Reality as it is, is a "Thing!"
The parts of ourselves that we leave behind can result in us living with and as a mask. When we get honest with ourselves... stop dismembering ourselves... consciously embody our complete presence... then... we're not dragging around a dead Buddha-Presence. That will not happen accidentally. That will happen when we intentionally stop leaving behind what we really cannot afford to leave behind. The point of our practice is to live and die without regret. Please do not forget this.
As we gain the ability to remove the mask, for 10 seconds... with ourselves in the silence of zazen... maybe even a minute... There's a synergistic shift. 1+1 doesn't equal 2. A Person + Zazen can equal something far more than 2. It can equal actualized Buddha! Universal Identity of Loving Presence!
Today, will we trick with a mask or treat as our True Self? For some… This as This, is a terrible dilemma.
一Dignity and Grace