My Friend, The Mirror

What is your relationship to the mirror?

Perched on a wall, a mirror does little but reflect back objects or give the impression of making a room bigger. This aluminum glass only gets interesting when turned to the sun or when someone stands in front of it. Its power lies in its ability to reflect, be it the sun or the human, but the greater power lies with the one holding the mirror. 

Do you hand over your power to a mirror? Do you judge yourself harshly by what is reflected back? Do you choose to spend precious time perfecting “imperfections” in front of it? Or do you see it for what it is…a two-dimensional fractured reflection of a physical reality that has just a little to do with who you really are?

When I was little, I played with mirrors and magnifying glasses, trying to set leaves on fire. If Archimedes could set fire to a whole fleet of ships by focusing the sunrays on them, why couldn’t I? With a magnifying glass, it’s straightforward. Just place it between the sun and the leaf, and watch the light get concentrated enough to burn a tiny hole that spreads and sets aflame. With a mirror, it’s trickier. You need a reflector from the back of a flashlight or the bottom of a soda can to focus the sunlight, but it can still be done.

As I grew up, my scientific curiosities with the mirror morphed into an adolescent obsession with it. The long rectangular mirror that hung on the back of my parent’s bedroom door became the barometer of my happiness, or should I say unhappiness. At around twelve, I noticed what I saw as chub around my thigh and I would fixate on it and wish I could slice the protrusion off with a cake knife. My body was changing quickly, and I didn’t like it. I hated my body with a vengeance, so much so that I starved it down to 81 pounds and nearly died.

Thus began a very tenuous relationship with the mirror that lasted most of my life.

At age 50, the mirror and I are finally friends again. I see it for what it is. When I stand in front of it, I allow it to show me if my skirt is clinging to my leg for dear life, or if my eyebrows have become one. I don’t let it contribute to any harsh judgment that might appear in my head. I’ve quieted those voices down, replacing them with messages of love and affirmation. I love the broken toe that sticks out on my left foot; the one I broke when running to answer the phone to talk to Lizzie, the first day home from the Peace Corps, smashing it against a door. I love the belly that sags just a little because it birthed my beautiful girls. I love the scar that runs up my shin because I remember what it felt like to be diagnosed with bone cancer at age 20, and appreciate the empathy I now feel with people who experience terror with a cancer prognosis. I don’t love the gray hair yet, but appreciate each strand as it pops through my color because I earned each wise one. Yes, the mirror and I are friends again. I let it wield power to reflect light and experience, not harsh judgment. 

When you look into a mirror, what do you see?  Try the following mirror exercises:

  • Find one positive wonderful thing. “I love that shoulder. It’s so strong. It’s carried millions of pounds of stuff and people around this planet over my lifetime!” Say it out loud. As awkward as it will sound, just do it. Trust me.
  • Write down your negative thoughts on paper, and laugh at them. Be aware of when the negativity creeps in, and laugh at it. 
  • Connect parts of your body to positive life experiences. If you’re being negative about the shape of your nose, for example, imagine flowers or aromatic experiences you’ve had in your life. See the nose as having brought your life so much joy.
  • Create a meditation around how your soul carries your body around in this life, not vice versa. Be conscious that it is just your bodily image reflected back from the mirror. If you want to fall in love with who you really are, stand there and smile and look deep into your own eyes. Connect with the part of you animating the body, not the clay form.
  • Walk away from the physical mirror and go out into the world knowing that YOU are the true mirror. Your heart is what reflects the light and joy in this world. 

Be the mirror that reflects love.

“A pure heart is as a mirror; cleanse it with the burnish of love and severance from all save God, that the true sun may shine within it and the eternal morning dawn.” –Baha’u’llah

Shine Your Light!

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