As a performing artist, I know that each time I walk out on stage, I have a choice to put on a mask, and a choice to remove any existing ones. For some, the stage is a vehicle for masks, either an opportunity to hide our self through a manufactured persona, or a chance to express alternate senses of self, perhaps repressed places that are in need of expression. For others, the stage is an alchemical portal for personal transformation, when met with the courage and humility and a willingness to be seen with greater honesty and transparence. Our personality’s daily masks disappear when we get out of the way and become channels for the divine.
Those who have gone to festivals know that to go to one can feel like stepping into an alternate universe. Festivals offer an opportunity to shed certain weights and obligations we carry throughout the day. They provide a vehicle to move through social boundaries we may believe in and develop a closeness with strangers. Like a temporary tribe that has descended on a place, festival goers can express with confidence a freedom in being themselves within a safe context. Freeform dance and expression, spontaneous happenings, candid interpersonal exchanges, and intimate sharing are common experiences at festivals.
To a certain extent, we all walk on stage at some point or another in our lives and feel the need to put on a mask. When we are in a position to make a toast at an event, or an impromptu speech, we may choose to put on a mask. Perhaps that is what feels right at that time. And perhaps, the shedding of masks would leave us freer and happier in the long run and give us a chance to express with candor how we truly feel.
Music festivals can remind us that we all tend to live in tribes, but their short lived expression gives us permission to let go of the way we think we should be, and allows a truer self to emerge. How many of us have had a spontaneous, deep exchange with someone on a bus, or the subway that has changed the arch of our day? How many of us have shared our deepest experiences with a perfect stranger on an airplane ride? These events, like a music festival, remind us that we can let go of our masks and find the courage to live with greater lightness of being.
Next time you find yourself in a stage-like setting, or in a tribe-like environment, remind yourself of the times you have spent at festivals or on stage. Or remind yourself of your favorite artist and be inspired. In the world of yoga they say the paths are many but the truth is one. In the world of performing art, we could say, the masks are many but you are one. You may want to play in the land of characters and various personality possibilities, and your may find that to be deeply liberating. But remember that no matter how many masks you wear, being your raw, natural self is a very powerful place to be.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine. In addition to being an internationally acclaimed Canadian singer, songwriter, producer and performer, she is a yoga teacher and holistic educator, having studied yoga and meditation since 1987, and developed her own yoga teaching style called YEM™: Yoga as Energy Medicine. Her current shows, “YIN: Yoga in the Nightclub” and “Natamba”, bring forward a conscious energy into the pop mainstream.