The Child behind the Mask

Ahimsananda's picture

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When I was about 22 years old, I had the most extraordinary experience. I was having trouble with depression, and in the middle of a confusing identity crisis. I found myself, at that early age, longing for my childhood. The whole social/sexual thing was something I was totally unprepared for, and the seemingly "simpler" time of my youth seemed like an alien world. I found myself asking "what happed to the child?, what happened to the child?"

In the depths of that longing; a longing of wanting to be "clean" again, the child I had been "appeared" before me and engaged in a silent dialog with my soul. There was a silent sharing of sadness over the loss of innocence, but also an understanding that this "dream" child was just that; a dream, and always had been! I was also made aware that this child was not me; was never me. For here I was; "conversing" with the child I was; a child who lives only in memory; a dream child.

This experience went on for some time. I can't say for sure how long, but there was a tendency to not want the child to go, as I was learning, uncovering so much. But, like all experiences that come, it went. It left a permanent impression however. I had long believed myself not to be the body, but here I could see that I also was not this "memory child". I was observing this child, just as I observed my "observing self", and could plainly see they both lived in memory. The child, created from past memory, the present man, created from "instant recollection" memory. Yes, we make it up as we go along.

The "dream child" is not entirely fictitious. It is what remains in memory, of the original spark; the comfort of constant awareness. Once the infant emerges from the womb, and shortly thereafter transforms "I AM-ness" into a separation from everything else, self protection begins. The first mask is the I AM-ness itself. From there it is mask after mask. Always the child is trying on new masks. A "Mommy" mask. A "Daddy" Mask. A "Good Boy/Girl" mask. A "Bad Boy/Girl" mask. And the masks don't go away just because there is a "new" mask. Think how many people go through several different sets of masks as they are presented with "different" situations. Some will "regress" to "infantile" behavior. Infantile, defensive behavior in an "adult" can be a frightening thing. It is the kind of behavior that leads, ultimately, to war. But the fear of the child; the primal fear of separation and alienation, is hidden under masks. So many masks hide us from ourselves and others.

When I was in the Monastery, I had already had years of psychiatric inquiry. I had been to some pretty dark and scary places in my soul, and held no illusion of my "holiness". In the formation of the monk, there is further "braking down" of the "ego", what ever that is? But let it be sufficient to say that, by the time one has gone through the kind of inquiry into one's soul those two "practices" lead to, one has few corners in which to hide. When I left the Monastery, I told people I felt like I was walking around without my skin. A Monastery is a "safe" place to go "skinless". In fact that is one of the main purposes of Religious Community. In community, masks must be removed, one by one, until the "original face" is all that shows.

I have found that the "dream child" has the frightened separated I AM at it's heart. It is this child that lives deep inside us all. It seeks the memory of the "spark", the completeness of awareness, but it will not take off that last mask; the mask of "I AM". Instead of taking off that last mask, it puts on more masks for protection, so by the time adulthood is reached, the spark is hidden under masks of "teacher", "businessman", "lover", "wife", "mother", "seeker". The "dream child" still cries for union under all the masks, even it's own, but the letting go of the masks needs to recognize the fear of this child, and lead it back, mask by mask, so it has the fearlessness to let go of the final "I AM' mask.

To find this "dream child" takes all the courage one can find. To face your true self, which is what the "dream child" actually is, is often to face ugliness. We like to see children as sweet, innocent little beings, untouched by violence or greed, or any of the "sins" we see in ourselves. But the fact is, anyone who has observed a pre-school playground knows that small children can be extremely selfish and violent in expressing their selfishness. Once one has the sense of "I AM-ness", and has yet to learn to use the "masks", self protective behavior is what you will get. We all are selfish. Some more than others. It all depends on the degree of fear or trust. Some "dream children" have more masks than others.

Remember that your wife, husband, boss, teacher, child has a "dream child". Their behavior, no matter how "adult", will be based on the fear or confidence of that "dream child". If you come to recognize your "dream child", and it's fears, you will go a long way in understanding the "bad" things others seem to do. When we can see each other as scared children simply trying to get "home", perhaps we can give sympathy, instead of enmity. When you begin to realize that your self protective behavior comes from the longings for safety of the "dream child", you can understand how you can go to the source; the "spark" beyond the "I AM", and find your "original face". Remove the "job" mask. Remove the "Man or Woman mask". Remove the "adult/child" mask. Finally, grit your teeth, and remove the "I AM" mask. Being remains.