What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror?
In the world of judging everything as good, bad or boring we can accumulate many unhelpful opinions about our own and other people's bodies.
It can make the world seem cold and hostile; a place of winners and losers. Some people have nice bodies and some people just don't. All this judgement can leave us alienated from the miracle of the body we inhabit.
If we identify ourselves with this harsh world it is as if we are wearing distorted glasses that never allow us to see the truth of what is before us. We can't see health, vitality, ease and loveliness. We look at ourselves or others, aiming only for flaws.
Zooming in on what seems wrong, we miss out on all that is right. Looking in the mirror becomes a search and destroy mission. We are only interested in spots, stray hairs, grey hairs, lumps and bumps. All that is going well is ignored. The thinking is that if we annihilate enough of these mistakes we will be judged favourably and win the game.
We forget that this game is made up and we can therefore choose to stop participating in it. It is learned behaviour that can be unlearned.
Mindfulness meditation and other such healing practices dissolve the unhelpful habits of mind that make the inner and outer worlds so hostile and lonely. We start to see the Soul in everything and discern things based on a deeper value. Beauty is then experienced as something that isn't just skin deep.
What do you see?
What do you see when you look at yourself in the mirror? Do you realise that you are looking at an ever changing collection of cells, beneficial bacteria, atoms, water and carbon, all of which adds up to 93% stardust? All of these ingredients are in a constant state of flux and flow in a unique and individual combination. Our bodies are continually renewing themselves as they flow through moments, days, weeks and years.
So, when we look in the mirror we think we are seeing a solid, fixed 'me', but it is more accurate that we are seeing a flowing, changing mass of elements and awareness’s which all come together to make a 'me'.
When we look at anything with loving eyes it becomes more beautiful. It relaxes enough for the beauty to shine through. When we look at anything harshly, with criticism and a cold eye, it reflects that back to us and becomes ugly. It tenses up and all beauty is masked.
Think of the last time you felt someone judging you. The eyes of a judging person are hard and shut down. There is no exchange of love and care. It is a fixed position and feels so unpleasant because it is denying the truth of change and possibility.
All that is gentle, soft and truly beautiful in us naturally recoils from criticism. Whether the criticism comes from inside or outside doesn't matter. It all stands in the way of well-being. The mindful approach to criticism is to accept its presence and realise it is an old habit that will dissolve if we refrain from reacting to it. It is not wrong, it is just unhelpful.
When people begin meditating they can often get caught up in judging themselves for judging, and then judging again for judging. This ties us up in lots of knots. Just stop and be kind. There is no place for right and wrong, good and bad in our inner world. Only encouragement, and the compassionate releasing of harsh and unhelpful habits.
Your relationship with your own body/mind is the most important relationship you will have in your life. Make it a pleasant one. Become your own best friend. This means uniting body and mind in peace and kindness.
Beating yourself up in order to become perfect is an outdated and unhelpful strategy to achieve something that will always remain elusive.
We will never be perfect because we are never done; we are ever-evolving.
If we choose to live mindfully we will always, naturally, be getting healthier, happier and more beautiful.
Aoife Valley runs Wee Owl Soul Care mindfulness meditation classes, retreats and one-to-ones in Donegal.
See www.aoifevalley.com and Soul Care with Aoife Valley on Facebook.
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