Many of us live in cultures that place great emphasis on being seen. We value how we’re seen, where we’re seen, and, equally, how and where we’re not seen. Most of us know people who desperately desire to be seen here (skiing in the Alps), or seen there (attending an invitation-only gala); and if we’re honest, we will likely admit to at least occasionally having desired to be seen in similar ways. This is just part of the human journey, the building of an ego. Who of us, especially when younger, wouldn’t admit to having wanted to be seen in our new car with the powerful engine, sunroof, and special rims? Who of us hasn’t desired to be seen achieving success or a great milestone? Is this not the same reason that people hang diplomas on walls and place trophies on mantels?
We can gain more understanding of our behaviour and its cause by examining how we were raised. Doing so will also help us realize that the patterns that we exhibit will often be inherited by our children. If we believe that we need to purchase upscale consumer items to be seen in a favourable light (one that apparently adds value to our conceptual self), we will, naturally, think it unimaginable to send little Johnny or Mary to school wearing generic sneakers. “Good God, our children might be ostracized by the ‘in’ group of children! Deep down, in the haunt of inner honesty, we may also be niggled by the belief that our children are a reflection of us. This ugly belief system will perpetuate itself, until we break free of its breeding pattern.
As children mature into adulthood, they often place intense pressure upon themselves to maintain the status of the conceptual self with whom they’ve identified. In truth, the image is only a mirage, a conceptual “me” that is fed to the point of becoming bloated with apparent realness. The thinking mind will always demand more—enough is never enough. There will always be another mountain to be climbed, another item to be purchased, another degree to be earned! Due to this, life seemingly becomes an opponent to be battled, rather than an ally to be enjoyed in the moment. Unless we teach our children (through example) how to live at a deeper level, we will continue to unconsciously invite them to life experiences that are frustrating and stressful.
This is not to state that we should become couch potatoes and live free of all our desires. The issue only becomes a problem when we confuse possessions and achievements with being who we essentially are. On a larger scale, this mentality affects humanity globally; for when we exist via the masks of ego, we carve people into groups, in much the same way that the fat is carved from a roast. Through ignorance-based judgement of gender, race, and nationality, we blindly accept that we’re united by this and separated by that. The majority of humans are drawing lines all the time—via achievements, possessions, or labels. We deem ourselves worthy or unworthy by being on this side of the line, or the other. It’s important that we realize that such lines are only drawn mentally; they have no existence in and of themselves.
When we attempt to live by this acquired mentality, we allow the flowing richness of life to swirl down the drain. We, as Awareness, are holding the plug; but many of us are too unaware to get out of our mind and stop—here and now—and place our attention in the heart of Presence, where it belongs.
The mask of ego always believes that somewhere else, or another achievement, will offer a greater supposed reward.
For a period of time, this mechanism appears to work; but eventually it must end in defeat. How many times have we heard of actors who are so identified with fame that they commit suicide when their starring-role days are over? How many times have we heard of beautiful women who fall into deep depression when they are no longer valued for superficial beauty? Are we not also unwise to step into such self-made traps?
There’s a deeper way of Being in the world, and it’s easy to understand when we contemplate the nature of true friendship. True friends see beneath the mask of ego. They know and accept who we truly are inside; and we also recognize that dimension within them. When we become still and enter the depth of our Being, we realize that a thing, trophy, or accomplishment can never be who we actually are. To know this is one of the reasons that true friendships endure. It’s also why superficial friendships fall away.
So, how do we change the way that we view others and ourselves? One way is through becoming aware of our intentions. Every time that we become conscious of the reason behind our actions we bring more consciousness into the world. If we desire to buy a Gucci handbag, we might honestly ask ourselves whether it would matter if no one knew we owned it. Similarly, do we truly want that Ferrari because it’s such a great car? Then imagine owning it without others seeing you drive it.
Another way of deepening our relationship with the world is through a principle that was espoused by Gandhi. He said that we must become the change we want to see. If we want more love in the world, be more loving; if we want more peace in the world, be more peaceful. If we want to witness more honesty and authenticity in the world, be more authentic and honest. Here and now, be authentic, be honest, be who you truly are. There is everything to be gained, and truly nothing to be lost—the mask was never the real you in the first place.