“EVERYTHING IS A REFLECTION OF THE CONDITION OF YOUR OWN HEART; or at least of the condition of your garden: of the seeds you have planted there, by being kind or not to others.
And so looking at the world is like looking in a funny kind of mirror – a mirror that takes weeks or months or even longer to reflect your face back to you after you step in front of it.”
p.398 of How Yoga Works by G.M. Roach
Life is a mirror = good news and bad news.
First, the good news: when I admire something in someone else – the ease with which my friend teaches yoga, the skill with which my friend writes, the authenticity and bravery of a boss – I must have capacity for that or a quality of it in myself already in order to even be able to recognize it in another.
The bad news: every time I think my husband is being bull-headed, my mom is being insensitive, or I otherwise feel unheard, unloved, or disrespected, frankly, it means I’ve done that to them and/or someone else myself.
I’m looking in the mirror and, well, OUCH.
That boss you think is so annoying. That friend who only talks about themselves. That family member who bullies you. The person who cut you off in traffic.
Ultimately, everything I experience now is coming back to me because I have in one form or another behaved that way myself or treated someone that way before. (I scribbled this in the margins of my copy of How Yoga Works.)
I’ve read and subsequently pondered versions of this sentiment before – about life being a mirror – but it hit home hardcore for me a few weeks ago while on the way home from visiting my family. I was frustrated with them. And I could’ve chalked it up to “usual family drama” or “that’s just how the holidays are” or “oh it’s normal for families to have different political views,” or any number of things or a variety of score keeping tallies about what they’ve done wrong, but that wasn’t it. I was deeply hurt by a handful of totally reasonable things to be hurt by, felt the week was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, and contemplated cutting all ties with them when I realized I needed to put the mirror in front of my own face. If I was feeling this way, then it meant at one point or another I’d probably made them (and my husband, my friends, my coworkers, the list could go on) feel that way, too!
But it was a window into a new path, new patterns, new possibilities, new forms of relationship.
Because I could choose to plant bad seeds, or I could plant good ones moving forward. And there about a thousand chances a day to recognize where we do one or the other.
That re-realization has shifted A LOT for me. It’s kind of changed everything. Seriously, for about a week afterwards I thought with total certainty, “I’ll never have a sad, angry, frustrated, or bad thought again! I’ve cracked the code! I’ve figured it out! I’ll be happy FOREVER!” 🙂
Maybe it’s the kind of change that isn’t terribly noticeable from the outside looking in, but I damn well feel different. And, ok, so old patterns die hard, and I haven’t felt happy 100% of the time since this epiphany on the plane, but it sure has helped me continue to recalibrate when I catch myself in my old way of thinking. And the biggest thing aside from felt happiness that I notice, is compassion. For realsies compassion for myself…and for all the “others.” There was an ugliness in my heart, and this “life is a mirror” reminder helped me release a big muddy chunk. Because I was keeping score, and I needed to stop.
So, may we humbly ask to see things differently? And if we did, would the lens through which we see ourselves, others, and the world alter from what we think is an unalterable reality, of what we’re already convinced of is or isn’t, or convinced of who we think someone already is? Maybe it’s just how we’re seeing it, how we are seeing them.
*Image by Regina Mountjoy, photographer.