My world is full of pretty masks — faces plastered with foundation, caked with shimmer-dust and embellished with false eyelashes. Pouty rouged lips are a dime a dozen. Some days you can hardly breathe through the smog of hairspray on set.
You see, I've worked as a commercial model for the past nine years. I'm not sure how many hours in the makeup artist's chair that equates to, but it's long enough to know one thing for sure: when it comes to true beauty, makeup can't hold a candle to mindfulness.
Makeup is a mask we wear to hide our perceived imperfections from the world. Practicing mindfulness, on the other hand, means beginning to see the perfection of the present moment as it is, beyond the thoughts and emotions that usually cloud our perception. Our judgment is always an added extra.
That being said, it's often not easy to accept the present moment or embrace ourselves as we are right now.
That's why mindfulness is a practice. Each time we notice we've become entangled in our thoughts and emotions (and it happens to all of us — a lot!) we gently bring our minds back to what's happening in the present.
There are tools we can use to help us do this, such as bringing our focus to our breath or being aware of the movement of our body as we perform an action. Or simply realizing when a thought has arisen and letting it go instead of following it up with a multitude of further thoughts.
When you come back to being present, your mind is clearer. That clarity shines from your face and you appear more radiant. No shimmer-dust needed. Your eyes sparkle more, and not because they're reflecting the illuminating cream on your cheekbones. It's because your judgments (of yourself and others) have softened and faded, and so you feel more joy.
You're no longer busy drafting to-do lists in your head while people are talking to you, and you're far less preoccupied with the stress of things you can't change. That leaves you free to laugh, to smile, to connect meaningfully with others and not sweat the small stuff so much.
When your thoughts are settled and you are mindful and at ease in the moment, your inner beauty shines through. Not even the most skilled makeup artist can make that happen for you. And you certainly can't buy it in a serum or a pressed powder set.
I know which kind of beauty I'd rather cultivate.
The pretty mask I wear for work is a smoke-and-mirrors trick. But as I develop strength of mindfulness, more of my inner beauty can shine through and it doesn't need my skin to look flawless or for each strand of my hair to fall perfectly. My true beauty comes from within and nothing can diminish it — not crow's feet, not lack of sleep, not bad lighting.
I'm not suggesting we all need to ditch our makeup kits entirely. (Not unless you feel inspired, and then more power to you!) Rather, let's remember that regardless of whether or not we choose to wear the makeup mask (or have to for work), we can always choose to unmask the beauty of our inner being.
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