“Mirrors should think longer before they reflect.”
― Jean Cocteau
Mirrors in our Lives
There’s an important relationship between a person’s center and his need for mirrors. The better we know ourselves, the less we worry about the reflections of others. Call it self-esteem.
The less knowledge we have of ourselves, the more we become dependent on the reflections of others. In the real world, we can control what we do, but not how others respond to it. Unfortunately we need exactly the opposite if we live our lives in mirrors. Needing something you can’t control is a recipe for stress and anxiety.
Mirrors in Development
All of us begin to develop a sense of ourselves very early in life—the smart kid, the clown, the one nobody likes, the pretty girl or whatever. Our early sense of self comes from how important people around us reflect us, especially parents and family, then teachers and classmates. Especially what we learn about ourselves as very young children, when our center is most open, is foundational. We’re loved, important—or not.
For most of us, adolescence and young adult-hood is a time of creating a sense of ourselves separate from our parents and family—often based on the mirrors of our peers and eventually co-workers.
By early adulthood, ideally we have begun to identify what we feel most basic to ourselves and hopefully have had some experiences of at least glimpsing our own centers.
We’ve also probably had some experiences with “fun-house mirrors”—people whose reflection of us is completely different from what we believe of ourselves. A highly negative teacher, boss or partner can make us begin to doubt who we really are—especially if we don’t have accurate, positive mirrors in our lives at the time, and MOST especially if we lack a strong sense of ourselves.
By the same token, a positive, supportive person entering our lives can create a strong shift in what we believe of ourselves. But the effect of mirrors is transitory if we lack a strong center. Once the mirror is gone, we are out searching again to find some new reflector to tell us what to think of ourselves NOW.
Moving through the looking glass
My Center is available in stillness. When I’m still is when I can get there, spend time there, get recharged there.
But stillness, like pure sweet water to drink, has become something you have to pay for. Take a yoga class (if you can find one that’s not “aerobic” yoga or “power” yoga). Do a Meditation workshop. Those are helpful, but you still have to schedule time to practice in your busy agenda.
The harder it is for me to be still, living in the midst of a wireless electromagnetic radiation cloud, the more I need mirrors. Plugging in is much easier for me to do at nearly any moment in nearly any place than it is to unplug and just be still.
So-called “Social Media”—as opposed to real social contact—are designed exactly to surround us with mirrors (and ads specifically selected for our tastes) during every waking hour. We can take a picture or video or text on the smallest thought or feeling or event in our lives. No need to experience it ourselves—just share it, wherever you are, whatever you are doing, with the whole (digital part of the) world in an instant. Surely someone will Like; some may make a comment. How can you be lonely, surrounded by Friends and Contacts?
The result, for any of us who don’t recognize where we’re going, who simply slide down the hill, is that we become what we think others think of us. Our opinions are the ones we’ve heard in the media. We think and talk about the topics our friends do, the shows, the Tweets. Our bodies and clothes and cars are what we consider “expressions of ourselves.” We’re very easy to control because we want to do what everyone is doing. The group IS the self. Like ants.
The Unplugged Mirror
But stillness too, like wireless, is always there any time any place. No batteries required. You just have to tune in to it. It’s not always easy to get there—but you don’t throw away your phone because the coverage is poor in some areas.
Meditation, prayer, jogging—there are guides to help you get there the first few times. You can keep using them after you’ve found stillness in yourself the first time, then gone back and found it 2 or 3 more times. Or you can just make it part of your life—even in short bursts about the length of a series of texts or a phone call or a video on YouTube. Make it a habit to go into your center at least as often as you log in to the hall of mirrors. You can drive in the stillness state, and it’s safer by far than texting. You can go to the bathroom in stillness. “Still down” for half an hour before you lie down to sleep instead of watching the tube or playing with your tablet in the dark bed.
Make it a goal of your training to re-discover your center, to get to know yourself in stillness every day, and to do as much as possible from your Center.