On mirror gazing

So I was reading this book “The Hidden Lamp” which is a compilation of stories about Buddhist Awakened women.  Lots of very cool stories that make me want to stop, scratch my chin and think for a bit. And when I do, I often find myself looking at the world just a little bit differently.

The story du jour is about a convent where the abbess would meditate in front of a great mirror in order to see into her own nature.  Over time each generation of nuns would meditate in front of the mirror concentrating on the question “Where is a single feeling, a single thought, in the mirror image at which I gaze?” The good sisters were searching for the purpose of their lives, looking to discover who they were as human beings.

Well reading that story got me to remembering a moment in my life when I was maybe in junior high school, maybe 7th or 8th grade, so just about 12 or 13 years old, just starting to realize that there was something to this becoming a young woman stuff.  I was in a small department store with my mother, wandering around waiting for her to be finished with whatever it was she was doing, and I walked past the jewelry counter. Of course there was a mirror on the counter that caught my eye – that is exactly what mirrors in department stores are supposed to do. I remember looking into it and noticing the zits on my chin – remember I was just barely 13 and not really conscious of much at that point in my life. So, just as I’m starting to notice these fatal flaws on my face, the sales person puts her hand over the mirror, moves it away and says to my mother, something like “these girls are so full of themselves all they want to do is look at their pretty faces.”  Funny, I never really resonated to the pretty faces part. Truth be told, I don’t think of my self as particularly pretty. I’ve always thought of my self as someone people liked because I have “a nice personality” but, anyway, what I resonated to was the critique of looking in the mirror.  So the story about this meditation resonated with me.

The commentary on the meditation included notes from a contemporary Buddhist practitioner who took up the meditation for a week. She brilliantly describes the her distractions from the first several days.  By the seventh day she was able to look into the mirror and see a courageous woman who was at least willing to look at herself.

And that really resonated for me. It took me from being critiqued for being curious about what I look like to an affirmation that it is not only OK, but a good think to take a good long look at who you are – and to find some peace and comfort in it.

So, maybe we should all try this?  Have a look at yourself in the mirror – 5 minutes a day for a week. What do you see? What are your reactions?  Do remember to look with the eyes of compassion!

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