In getting to know your essential self (in dis-identifying from what we are not), there are ten mirrors of identity to look into:
- The Mirror of Reflection (physical mirror)
- The Mirror of Others’ Minds, Approval, & Feedback ( social mirror )
- The Mirror of Circumstance, Status, Rank, & Reputation ( situational mirror )
- The Mirror of Roles, Membership, & Affiliations ( relational mirror )
- The Mirror of Action, Professional Identity, Performance, & Pastime (behavioral mirror)
- The Mirror of Possessions & Ownership ( material mirror )
- The Mirror of Body, Age, & Health ( bio-data mirror )
- The Mirror of Time, Memory, Imagination ( temporal mirror )
- The Mirror of Language, Words, Description (linguistic mirror )
- The Mirror of Consciousness (inner mirror )
Once you study yourself in these mirrors you will see that 9 of these mirrors offer you nothing but distortions - you are not how you look, you are not others' thoughts about you, you are not your body, you are not even your own thoughts about you, and so on and so forth.
It's only the 10th mirror (the Mirror of Consciousness) - the mirror of meditation - the inner mirror - that allows you to catch a true glimpse of your essential self.
The metaphor of the mirror is essential. Here’s what Antonio T. De Nicholas has to say on this point in his profound Four-Dimensional Man: Mediations Through Rg Veda:
[L]ooking in the mirror is…one of the most important philosophical acts we perform on ourselves daily. To begin with, the mirror gives us only an image, and this is a triviality. However, the triviality may turn into a nightmare or a liberation the moment we start looking carefully (philosophically) at the image in the mirror, for the image we see in the mirror is always an image we recognize in relation to a very similar image we saw previously in the mirror; and this, in turn, we recognize in relation to another image we saw in the mirror—and so on. The fact that we lump all these images under the same personal pronoun “I” is trivial; for this “I” is, again, a linguistic image within a mirror of language that reflects whatever images we decide to conjure up. However, the decision about which criteria to use in relating to these images is not in the images, in the mirror, but is entirely up to the language-user or mirror-user to decide. The mirror confronts us with these two possibilities; we may acknowledge the source of the images—namely, us, I, man, woman—as forever unknowable and unidentifiable, or we may reduce ourselves to the image in the mirror. Unfortunately, this second choice is the one we usually take;…by reducing ourselves to the image in the mirror, we have chosen to live in the mirror.” (1976, 82)
Mirror teaches us about our own essence, about how to reflect without clinging. By looking at the mirror meditatively we learn how to do the same.
Adapted from Lotus Effect (Pavel Somov, 2010)