© 2022 Scott Bierko
First, I will remove this heavy coat.
I have worn it – or ones like it – for sixty years. It was passed to me by my mother and father (from their parents) to protect their children from dangerous people. As the years went on, when I felt fear visit me like an unsuspected torrential downpour, I wrapped it tighter around me. It is keeping me safe, I reasoned. Even if I cannot feel the warmth of a hug or the cleansing of tears shed by others around me, I need it.
But now, I remove this coat and allow the wind to caress my torso. And I think, for the first time, that uncertainty is part of life.
Second, I will remove my shoes and socks.
“The ground may be muddy and messy, cold or full of spikey things that may puncture your feet, darling boy.”
To be protected from the shifting or uncertain earth, we distance ourselves from Her with layers of material, leather and rubber, but also a comfortable amount of cotton to swaddle our feet and keep them soft. Covering them, we lost touch with Mother Earth and our ability to ground ourselves.
So, I remove these shoes and socks and stand on the ground. If I stand still and connect with Her, I can simultaneously imagine the shifting layers beneath me and the solidness of this patch of earth. I am connected to both.
Third, I will remove my mask.
I want to be who I am, not who I want you to see (or ignore). This is perhaps the hardest piece of my costume to shed because I am accustomed to wearing a mask not only when I get onstage or arrive at a place with strangers, but even when I look at myself in the mirror. Like others, I have a large collection of masks, but I tend to wear one most of all – the one that makes me invisible. It has a blank expression that allows me to pass unnoticed when I’m afraid.
In removing this mask, I allow myself to be me and feel love and fear fully. I can see clearly because I’m no longer seeing the world through a false self. Is life harder without a mask? Yes, but I accept the tradeoffs.
Who knows what will happen as I begin to shed more and, eventually, allow myself to be naked?
The voice of my early teachers says, “don’t do it!” They are passing along the traditions that were passed to them from generations of careful, respectful, upright citizens who dare not step out of line. I sense my chest tighten and my breath gets shallower when this voice tries to control my very being.
And, all at once, when I know that it is just a voice, I am released from it. There are other voices, of course, healthier and more harmonious, singing songs of love and my soul cries out to unite with them.
These voices are in all of us, in the trees and in the clouds and even in the person or thing we fear the most. It is our choice to listen to a voice or not, to believe in fear or to know love. There really is no evil, only a manifestation of fear that is “no love now.” And as quickly as the sun can come from behind a cloud and brighten our face and engage us with the natural beauty of the divine inside of us, so, too, can that person or thing transform back to its natural state.
We come into this world naked. In the Adam and Eve story, we learned that they were happy in the Garden until they sought to take on the role of the Creator. We, in turn, then felt the shame of our naked, real selves. We punish ourselves with self-doubt until we return to the state of fully trusting the Divine in ourselves, in others and in nature.
To me, this is a story about will and surrender. The Universe (or God, Energy or Higher Power) only has one requirement of the human – let ME be the river so that YOU can drift down it. Let ME be the earth and sea and YOU be the one who lives and thrives there.
And, so, I continue my quest to get naked.