Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Living Without Mirrors

Gina Lake

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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 eye.

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 your eyes.

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 at us.

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.

Copyright © 2008 Gina Lake. From Embracing the Now: Finding Peace and Happiness in What Is. After having a spiritual awakening in 1999, Gina Lake has dedicated herself to helping others discover their true nature and uncover and heal whatever interferes with doing that through counseling, intensives, and writing. She has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology and over twenty years of counseling experience. Her books include: Radical Happiness, Return to Essence, Choosing Love, Living Your Destiny, Embracing the Now, Getting Free, and Anatomy of Desire. Her website offers information about her books and consultations and free e-books, book excerpts and chapters, a monthly newsletter, and recordings of talks:

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012