How we look is so important in this culture.
It becomes how we see ourselves. The image in
the mirror seems like who we are. We carry this
image around with us inside our heads, and when
we think of “me,” we think of this
image. We have many self-images, and the image
of what we look like is perhaps the strongest.
We are most identified with this self-image in
part because identification with the body is
so strong and because the mind needs something
to pin the idea of “me” on. This
inner picture of ourselves strengthens and holds
in place the idea of “me.” Without
this inner image of what we look like, the idea
of “me” weakens and can’t be
maintained as easily.
You may have experienced this at times in your
life when you were away from mirrors for a while,
like when you were camping or in a more primitive
living situation. You begin to experience yourself
more as you truly are than as an image you hold
in your mind of yourself. There is a big difference
between the experience of yourself and the experience
of the image of yourself. The image is an idea.
It’s flat, unalive, and you have to work
hard to maintain it (especially without mirrors
to help you), while the experience of yourself
is mysterious and ever-present. It is just there;
you don’t have to work at producing it.
It is experienced as what is looking out of your
eyes. This is very mysterious—what is this
that is looking out of your eyes? Just take a
moment and experience what it is like to look
out of your eyes and experience yourself that
way. What a different experience this is from
imagining what you look like in your mind’s
When you experience yourself looking out of
your eyes, you experience your body very differently
than when you imagine your body or when you see
it in the mirror. Stop a moment and just look
at the miracle that is your body with your eyes,
without any comments or thoughts about your body.
What do you experience? You are likely to experience
the body as something apart from yourself, something
you look upon with amazement. Whose hand is that?
Whose leg is that? The body appears to be more
of a vehicle for who you are than who you are.
And so it is. The body is a vehicle for who you
really are. The mind pretends that this vehicle is who
you are, but the body is only a temporary carrier
for the consciousness that is looking out of
That’s the truth, and the mind takes
us away from this truth through the inner image,
which is made possible by mirrors or other reflective
surfaces. Without these, you wouldn’t know
what you look like. You would just experience
yourself without this inner image. Your mind
would still form other self-images, perhaps even
a made-up picture of yourself based on how people
react to you, but it would be much harder to
identify with an image that was not constantly
being reinforced by mirrors.
We don’t have to get rid of mirrors (although
living without them for a while is helpful) to
begin to live more from the real experience of
ourselves rather than from the image we have
of ourselves. We can just see the truth of this
and consciously choose to put our attention on
what is looking out of our eyes rather than on
what we think other people see when they look
This is a dramatically different way of experiencing
yourself, and it will allow you to be much more
present to life. Maintaining a self-image is
hard work, and it interferes with being very
present to whatever else is going on. When we
give our attention to our self-images and thoughts,
we miss so much else that is going on. It may
seem like nothing is going on, but that is the
mind’s take on every moment: “Nothing’s
going on here, so let’s think about something
interesting.” The mind doesn’t give
life a chance to reveal its richness. When you
give life your full attention instead of your
thoughts, you discover the happiness and contentment
you have always wanted but have never been able
to find in the mind’s world. Ideas just
can’t substitute for real life.
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