Saturday, August 6, 2011

Living Skinless

When I left the religious community to return to the "real " world, I felt "skinless". I had always, since childhood, felt a bit skinless. The adult world seemed crazy. People said things they didn't mean. They lied, cheated, and covered up the truth, while telling me not to do the same. They spoke of "God " and spirituality as being of the greatest importance, but constantly figured out ways to "get around " things that were inconvenient. It was confusing, and it hurt.

We often refer to "becoming like children " as if we really understood what that means. In spirituality it is highly prized, but rarely practiced. Oh, we try to act "innocent ", non judgmental, and accepting, but we avoid the vulnerability that is required to actually rediscover those things in our lives. We need to become "skinless". We wear masks that hide our true selves. We read about a Ramana Maharshi, a Christ or a Buddha, and we may attempt to live our lives based on their words and actions. But those are just more "masks".

If I put on a "Ramana " mask, and base my life on his words, his actions, what happens to the true face I hide ? If I follow the ways of a Christ or Buddha, live in their "skin", try to think with their thoughts, where is the expression of the One that lives in this wave ? We hold up particular characters in this play as examples. Ramana, Nisargadatta, Christ, Buddha, and a number of others. Do we need to do what these men did, or do we need to do as these men did? When I refer to as these men did, I am referring to being themselves. Being open to being themselves.

Being yourself seems to be very hard within any "system ", be it fundamentalist Christianity, or non-dualism. The fundamentalist Christian makes all manner of rules to follow, to be "like Christ ". So we put on a "humility mask ", a "righteous indignation" mask, a "caring" mask, and all the rest of them. In non-duality, we put on a "oneness " mask, a "no doer" mask, a "no judgment " mask, and all the other masks that "define " our thinking, and who we fancy we "are". But to really discover our expression, our potential, we need to become "skinless ".

Becoming "skinless " involves more than just removing the masks, it requires the removal of "skin", an open vulnerability. To look closely at this "skinlessness " as metaphor, we have to see that the openness of "skinlessness", not only makes us available to what is, it makes us sensitive to the "salt " that gets thrown our way. We may wince and cry sometimes in this vulnerability. "Salt" hurts the "skinless" This if course, is frowned upon in non-duality circles. If you are "enlightened ", free, One with the all, you are told you live in bliss. No tears, no pain, no "salt ".

I recently was forced to unfriend one Facebook friend, and was unfriended by another. This disappointed me, as I was a fan, an enjoyer, a friend in every sense of the word. I attempted, as a child might, to be open and point out the need for "skinlessness ", vulnerability, by being vulnerable. I pointed out that I suffer from time to time with depression, but keep it under control by seeing it for what it is. They took exception by putting on the mask of "enlightenment ". From behind this mask of "enlightenment ", I was told that I "had not made it yet ", or I would be happy and blissful like some kind of cartoon chipmunk. When I took exception to this, they threw "salt ". It hurt, and once they knew it hurt, they threw more.

To get away from metaphors for a moment, I felt hurt. Now, I know in the rarified world of Advaita, or non-duality, one is not supposed to feel hurt, only bliss or "nothingness ". But I hurt. If you take a child who offers his best openly, no matter how innocent, non judgmental or accepting children may be, and slap him in the face, he will cry. And I did. I sat in front of the computer screen and cried the bitter tears of a child. I recovered, as the footing of my life is on solid ground, but there wasmomentary hurt. I do not pretend to be in some blissful state all the time, although that is in my experience. I offer what I offer "skinlessly ". I do not give two pins if it fits with Ramana, or Nisargadatta, or Christ or anyone else. I offer myself, as it says in the bible, and as we named our religious community, as a living sacrifice, "skinlessly".

To be open, as a little child, to Oneness and bliss, I must be open to pain. I must not trade all the masks I so valiantly tore from my flesh, for the mask of "enlightenment ", a false enlightenment that promises a false "bliss". I must not care if anyone, even myself, thinks I am enlightened. I must live only "skinlessly " now. It hurts sometimes, but I will not wear another's spirituality, mask or skin. When life throws "salt", as life will, it will burn. I might cry. But the "skinlessness" that allows the "salt " to burn, also allows the balm of awareness and Love, in to sooth.


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