Tribal Warriors, Bridesmaids, Receptionists, Fashion Models and Incoming High School Freshmen Girls. All approach the ritual of the face with stunning discipline. Growing up, I had a friend who had a ceremonial way of putting her face on and taking it off. White headband, wash, foundation, powder, eyeliner, mascara. Every day, same time and same stunning attention to protocol.
When I was a waitress, I called makeup my “War Paint”. When waiting tables, you need to feel like you are in control as the elements around you swirl with chaos. Wearing makeup was a way to show my tables “I got this”. You would be amazed how many naked-face days came up with fewer tips than when I wore eyeliner. I don’t think it had anything to do with aesthetics – more the fact that when I looked in the mirror I knew no one would call me “dearie” that day, or think it was my first day on the job. That gave me confidence.
But what kind of ritual was really engaged in the putting on and taking off of a public mask? Are the foundations we create for ourselves, even on a surface level, foundations for soulful development?
We see a movement in celebrity culture towards the “naked face” and “non photoshop” photo. People commend these culture makers for being so brave and honest and open about what they look like, but the ritual of our criticism remains the same. We judge naked-face photos just as rigidly as we judge bad photoshop; with stunning cruelty and love it or hate it rigidity.
I participated in The Color Run last week, a 5K where participants are bathed in colored chalk. A celebration of happiness, health, and fun. Some of it felt like the selfie olympics – people would stop to take group photos during the race. Some of it looked like fun, as people played pranks on each other and recorded them with cameras, but the constant posing? Part of me was like, hey guys – want to actually walk or run in this and see the world around you that is happening?
Have we reached an era where we are more interested in recording the surface aspect of our lives rather than participating in them? Do we want our face-value image more than we crave the actual experience?
Last night, I did an impulsive meditation. It wasn’t a part of my yoga practice, but it felt like real life. My skin, after being drowned in colored chalk and bathed in hard water? Has been breaking out. I wanted a soulful remedy for an irritation – to be PRESENT with my face as I cared for it and ceremoniously created a ritual of small amounts of self-love.
I took a Q-Tip, put cleanser and water on it and I traced all the dirt off with the ends. I rubbed the edges of my blemishes with precision and curiosity. I was tempted to break the skin, even use tweezers. But like all problems the gentle solution is usually the easiest one. I took a warm washcloth, soaked as steamy water rose off of the edges. I gently washed every corner of my face and neck and took stock in the places missed and re-worked. I must have spent 20 minutes with myself, the water, the mirror, and the present moment. It felt amazing.
I think the best part of this ritual was the eye contact. When looking yourself in the face and seeing all the history of your experiences, the laugh lines and the dark marks, it becomes valuable to you. The warmth and love that I give to my face is like the warmth and love I want to give to myself : every day, and acknowledging all the things that I am and am not with joy and cleansing ritual.
Your naked face is what you live with every day. No matter what you put on and take off, learning to lean into the deep and infinite parts of yourself will bring you peace. May you learn to make loving rituals for yourself that truly give you grounding. As you put on and take off life’s tasks and rituals, may you value the person who participates in them. May everyone who looks at you be healed by the love behind your eyes. May your face heal others as it communicates kindness and compassion. May your joy be present in your face.