The Theosophical Society in America

What to Wear


By Betty Bland

Originally printed in the March - April 2004 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Bland, Betty. "What to Wear." Quest  92.2 (MARCH-APRIL 2004):42-43


What should I wear today? The purple sweater itches, and the green shirt is wrinkled. Besides, neither fits my mood today. What is it that makes us spend so much time considering our appearance? Some of us shop around for just the right look. Others carefully avoid the issue by wearing a standard "uniform" without noticing how attached they may be to a certain look.

When she is traveling, my mother loves watching people at the airport. She doesn't even feel the necessity to take along a good book for whiling away those hours of unexpected delays. Thousands of "books" parade before her eyes in the form of multitudes of weary travelers. Each one has a certain bearing, distinctive clothing, and a story to be told.

Being the rugged individualists that most Theosophists are, many of us might protest that we don't focus on outer appearances and thus don't pay so much attention to our garb. We like to think we are different. Actually, our costume is a part of the personality we use to interface with the world. Be it sloppy or neat, hip or out-of-step, our look reflects our culture and personality. It is a part of this incarnational package.

If you think you are not attached to your mode of dressing, try wearing something totally out of character and see how you feel. The resulting self-conscious awkwardness can give a clue to how attached we all are to our particular character—the part we play in this world. We have a sense of our skin and the type of outer look that reflects who we are.

The strange thing about this world of illusion is that we pay so much attention to the outer garments without taking adequate notice of our inner garb. Most folks would not like to go out to meet the world each day without brushing their teeth and combing their hair, besides the usual last minute mirror-check. Yet few ever think of looking in that interior mirror to see if some adjustments need to be made.

Jesus said that it is not what one puts into the mouth that corrupts, but what comes out of the mouth, he was referring to the importance of kindness of speech being far greater than compliance with religious dietary rules. A direct corollary to that axiom is that whatever is projected from within ourselves is far more important than however we adorn the outer self.

If this is so, we need to spend far more time looking into that interior mirror of our soul, and making the necessary adjustments. It would be so nice if this were as easy as changing clothes, butof course it is not. Yet if we wish to contribute to world peace and the uplifting of humankind, then concentrated attention must be given to our inner garments. When we look in the mirror, do we see the attire of irritability, frustration, anger, and impatience?

These characteristics, which are present in every one of us in varying degrees, are a part of the garments of our inner selves. Do you remember the Peanuts character, Pigpen? He carried a cloud of dirt swirling around his head wherever he went, scattering particles of dirt along the way. This image describes the way that our thoughts and emotions cloud our vision and contaminate those who come into our sphere. Even beyond that, our thoughts and feelings contribute to a far larger collective atmosphere that can affect many people for good or for ill.

If we are wearing kindness, tolerance, and a cheerful attitude, then we bring those qualities to all around us. On the other hand, we can add to the violence, unrest, and suspicion that permeate so much of our world if that is our outer garment. We can decide how we want to impact the world.

Taking poetic license with the evil queen in the fairy tale of Snow White, "Mirror, Mirror onthe wall, I do not like this at all." If this is our response to the image we see, then we musttake responsibility for changing our inner clothes. We may not like to be answerable for our attitudes, nor want to work to change them. Yet the fact of being responsible for and impacted by our thoughts and feelings is one of the unique traits of being human. Learning to take a mental bath is one of our essential tasks, but like Pigpen, we don't want to hop into the tub. Maybe if we would just try a little bit, we would find that it isn't so bad—maybe it is even pleasant.

Granted, our personalities are a product of long-time habitual attitudes; yet they are also plastic and subject to reprogramming one little bit at a time. If we notice our thoughts and feelings, they actually begin to transform before our very eyes. One could say that the light of clear consciousness is like a huge bar of soap, just waiting to scrub away the shadow. Not only that, but focused thought in the right direction can begin to reform our very natures.

We might consider a morning meditation as a standard part of the day just like brushing our teeth and combing our hair. Having a moment of quiet peacefulness, commitment to service, and the sendingof kind thoughts to others every day is like bathing the personality in the purest cleanser. Although we may be encased in lots of crusty layers, and it may take weeks, months or years, gradually the true light of our being will shine through and we will be arrayed in all our natural splendor.

So tomorrow and the next day and the next, when you are deciding what to wear, think also about your inner self, how you would like it to be clothed, and what you would like for it to impart to the world. Then think about someone you love, feel peace in your heart, and start the day with a sense of gratitude for all the blessings around you. When you look in the mirror again, you will see that you have indeed put on your "Sunday best." You are ready for whatever the day may bring.