Think back to yourself one year ago. How were you different? I often find myself embarrassed or shocked by how I thought and acted just a short time ago. We feel as if we are constantly growing and changing, and yet then we look back and wonder what the hell we were thinking.
It’s easy to get in this pattern, to live constantly changing oneself as a perceived improvement but then looking back on these shifts in perspective as having been illusory the entire time. Time feels like it’s moving quickly, and yet a decade seems to pass in a year.
This is because we tend to operate in such a way that shrouds true identity. Who you say you are, or who others perceive you as, is not who you are. This is why it feels like “you” are constantly changing, why the past feels embarrassing.
We are inundated by images of identities, and plenty of people spend more time each day watching the projections of actors and advertisers on a screen than they do interacting with real people. The whole spectacle continues to grow layers upon itself. Your perception of yourself becomes skewed by these images, whether you realize it or not. The mask tightens and becomes more detailed until you think it’s your real face.
As a result, the “you” that you perceive as being a past version of yourself isn’t really yourself at all. The “you” that you think you are right now isn’t even rooted in reality. It’s a mask, and it’s possible to live your entire life developing an arsenal of convenient personality masks and never removing them. Once we begin to cater to the expectations of others, and the cultural standards we have been taught to enact, the prospective discovery of one’s true self becomes more and more daunting.
To find this true self, stop looking out in the world. Stop chasing pleasures, collecting experiences, and treating the world like a board game. Look within yourself and slowly peel away the layers of falsity and delusion. You wouldn’t know that an apple contained seeds if you never bit into the apple— nor that the seeds were capable of growing into massive trees and creating more apples ad infinitum— if you never tried planting the seeds.
Meditation is a passive act, but it’s not fully passive. The subconscious takes over and begins to unfold the self. Over time, you are able to naturally just let your mind dig deeper and deeper into itself until it has changed entirely. Only then will you be able to properly remove your mask.