The word reflection triggers many thoughts and images for me.
I remember a day years ago, not long after beginning a new journey of spiritual exploration and personal growth. While dressing for work in the morning, I used the mirror in my closet to tie a bow on my blouse. I struggled with the bow, and then decided to look down directly at it rather than looking in the mirror. It was much easier to tie the bow when I looked directly at it, when I concentrated on the bow rather than its reflection.
The thought struck me that several of my teachers, and authors of books, said that life is like a mirror for us. I had accepted that idea and understood it, but now there was new personal significance for the mirror of life concept. I realized it would be more effective to concentrate on my own experience from inside rather than depending on outside advice and feedback. I wanted to look at my life and experience directly rather than through the mirror image.
Most of the time I tried to please other people. I was living through them and for them; their expectations and perceptions of me were important. Using the mirror to tie a bow was difficult, and using other people to judge my value was not working very well.
I decided to get in touch with how I perceived my experience, and act according to my own Inner Guidance. Feedback from people gives me information about how they experience me; it is an indicator, not the full picture, of who I really am. It is OK to use a mirror to check how I look to others, like I did with the bow after it was tied. Discovering how others perceive me teaches me about my outer image in life. That certainly helps me prepare for how I might be treated. However, in making important choices, I want to be more aware and respectful of my own inner urges and deep desires.
This was a powerful turning point, a decision which led to exploring my wants and needs in more depth. I discovered that it was difficult to identify what I truly wanted or needed, and I found it a challenge to express it, even to myself. When I began to express my wants and needs, people around me were uncomfortable, because they were not used to it, and I was awkward in my first attempts.
After months of training sessions with Lifespring, an experiential personal growth program, I used my new insights to make profound changes. I discovered what was important to me, like traveling and teaching. I began to make choices based on my needs and desires, rather than simply allowing other people to influence me based on their needs and desires. Independence and self-reliance are high priorities for me. I like to give to people, and I began to see the need to balance giving and receiving.
I was on the path of integration, a search for wholeness, rather than the disintegration and disillusionment I sensed before that. Life took on a new meaning and excitement for me. I can still recapture that sense of excitement now, as I remember the special moments in front of that mirror, and exploring the implications for my life.
It has not been an easy journey since then. I discovered much pain and grief buried within me since childhood. For many years, I was not able to remember anything before the age of seven. I got professional help to explore my early years. I needed help to work through the pain of a traumatic experience with my mother when I was seven and my sister was nine. My mother locked herself in the bathroom with a butcher knife, and threatened to kill herself, with only my sister and me in the house. It took time for me to work through the emotions of fear, anger and guilt from that experience. After doing that I could begin to remember the events before I was seven.
Many of my childhood memories are good. Some of them are painful. During one underwater rebirth session, I relived a memory of nearly drowning when I was one year old. It was painful to recall the sensation of not being able to scream for help. My family never talked about that particular event in my early life, and I suspected I might be imagining it.
During a family reunion, I asked my brother about it. He was rather distressed by the memory and told me, “Yes, Bon, it did happen. I took you out with me and my friends on a sailboat. You fell into the water. I pulled you out fairly quickly.”
It was a relief for me to realize that this memory was accurate, and it explained why I rarely asked for help. That experience of not being able to breathe, or scream for help, was buried deep within. I made a decision at that time that there was no point in calling for help since no one could hear me. I still struggle sometimes with the issue of not being heard.
These are a few examples of the memories I have uncovered. This process of discovery has resulted in my release of the pain and grief from childhood. I have discovered a new joy and appreciation for life.
There are many mirrors in life, besides the ones in our bathrooms or closets. The physical mirrors show us our physical image. People also serve as mirrors for us, and there are many things around us that give us messages. I now observe and listen more carefully. I lived at a marina years ago, and loved to watch the water through the living room window. Sometimes, early in the morning, the water was calm and quiet. The reflections of the boats and sky were very clear. At other times, when the wind was blowing, the reflections in the water were disturbed, almost unrecognizable compared to the real objects reflected there. Life can be like that too. The mirrors around us can be distorted and not reflect accurately what we are doing, or who we really are, like those funny mirrors in a fun house. Just as the wind can disturb the water, the past experiences of people can distort their reflections of us. Their reactions are affected by their past.
What about our own reflections on our past and present? Our memories of things that have happened affect the way we observe ourselves and the world around us. Our memory of the past is affected by our unique set of filters, the lenses we use to view events. It is powerful to understand the truth Ken Keyes, Jr. shares in his book, The Power of Unconditional Love, “people can always be trusted to live out their programming!” If someone learned as a child that anger was the best way to get attention, then the habit of getting angry is understandable. If someone learned as a child to not trust the emotional moods of a parent, like I did with my mother, then having a difficult time trusting people as an adult is understandable. I got the message as a child that my anger was dangerous, so I spent many years hiding my anger, or denying it. Knowing the importance of past programming makes it easier for me to trust people, to judge less, criticize less, and to love unconditionally both myself and others.