In Buddhism, the ‘I’ is something that is transitory. There is no one, firm ‘Self’.
Yet there definitely is something, an inner voice, a compass, that resonates when we act according to its precepts, an inner pearl that we recognize and can nurture.
The question for this first lesson was: what is that thing we call ‘self’?
Does it exist? If so, does it remain steady? Has it changed over the years?
My students are 14. This age is critical. Still protected by Jr. High status, they are not yet expected to be dating queens or fully responsible for a solidified sense of self. They remain free to investigate, to wonder, to dare to make mistakes, in the comfort of our meditation lesson. No one will share what they think or say and they are among friends.
We did a Take Five breath meditation (With the inhale/exhale we fold back a finger and say “Take 1, Take 2, etc). We shared with a word how we felt that morning. And we moved on to the topic.
When I introduced the idea of masks and what might cause us to wear one, one girl denied that she ever wore one. She was what she was. Always. Another girl claimed that she wore a mask most of the time, just taking it off when she was with friends, with those who wouldn’t label her a ‘dorf’, a kook, a weirdo! They’d know that she was simply being herself, feeling free with them.
Masks. What do they offer us? How might they affect our relationships with others?
One girl mentioned control. She could assert some control on a relationship by using a mask.
As for me, I feel my outer body is a mask. Inside, I still feel youthful (my 9 year old self)and it’s surprising when I realize that I am, indeed, a Senior. In buses, in museums, my mask offers the gift of discounts on entry fees!
With this, we transitioned to a Body Scan meditation to notice how we felt at the moment and to suspend thoughts of anything that related to the outer world.