Sunday, August 23, 2015

How "Polishing the Mirror" Helps You Reflect the Miraculous

Although I'm an avowedly non-violent kind of guy, it's not beyond me to ruthlessly torture a metaphor along with the best (or worst) of 'em, and seeing as this is a session that requires lots of spiritual elbow grease–nearly everyday–you have my permission to cover your eyes. You won't need them to look into this mirror.

"Our life is shaped by our mind, for we become what we think."
                    Buddha, The Dhammapada 1:1

In Zen Buddhism, where meditation is called sitting zazen, they use this marvelous housecleaning metaphor of "polishing the mirror" when they talk about how to think about not–thinking. It's like this: If the way we think is just an incomplete reflection of a greater, more blissful consciousness (based on how healthy our connection to it), then the best way to perceive more of that blissful Source is to do some housecleaning, so to speak—starting with the "inner mirror" that serves as our doorway into the limitless potential of Life.

That mirror stands for the surface of something unfathomably deep that we can only reach by entering our imaginations. In the reflection of Life that we are, we see ourself only on its surface. We'd like to feel more a part of it—to become more a part of it—and sometimes we can momentarily reach into that depth, but we, ourselves, are what's reflecting that profound reality so poorly. All of the fogginess and flaws are a result of own misperceptions; our conscious and subconscious designs. The obscurities are all of our own making.
 So, naturally it stands to reason that if we can improve the quality of the reflector, we'll improve the reflection.

To start that process, we need to sit in stillness and roll up our 'inner sleeves' to ready ourselves for housecleaning. Everything goes better when it's picked up a bit: straightened, inventoried, and organized. Most—if not all—of the mess on the surface of the mirror are simply all the stuff we're thinking about. Thoughts about who we are, about what we don't have, about what we think we should have, about what we think we need to be happy, and what we need to feel whole.
We need to stand back a bit, and clean up our streaky, smudgy thoughts.

"The deluded, imagining trivial things to be vital to life, follow their vain fantasies and never attain [bliss]; but the wise, knowing what is trivial and what is vital, set their thoughts on the goal, and attain [bliss]."
                     Buddha, The Dhammapada, 1:11, 12

In a recent article ("Sitting in the Wilderness," at The Mindful I tried to simplify the three "temptations," met and overcome, by both Jesus and The Buddha as they sat and faced their 'devils'—temptations that can stand in quite nicely for the surface-obscuring stuff that clouds our internal mirrors. Simply put, they are:
1) The deep wish to control things to be just the way we want them to be.
2) The superficial, or material, or physical desires we desire to have gratified, and 
3) Our fears – usually having to do with numbers one and two.

 Our fears are the basic filmy schmutz (that's Yiddish) that "as through a glass darkly" obscure our ability to perceive our brightest potential—and they should be the easiest to simply wipe away, seeing as how most of our fears aren't even real. The shadows they cast over the way our daily life appears to us are largely the product of our own negative imaginations. Most of what we fear comes and goes with little or no real consequence, and even when it does impact on our life, it is still only Life, doing what it will do. Usually, we learn our greatest lessons that way, by facing our reflected fears.

Polishing that inner mirror puts us directly in touch with the surface of an ocean of underlying support and serenity. There's a quality of contact with the depth of all that potential that allows us to see through those simple fears to the calm sanity and intelligence that stands behind them, and beneath everything. You gain a purpose that lets you patiently wipe away the default negative inventions that obscure your underlying potential—those feelings that you some how don't measure up, or the resentments you get against others (who are simply doing their best to reflect consciousness too). Just a crumpled-up newspaper, and a little ammonia works wonders.

And then, as long as you're inventing things to think about, invent something wonderful—visualize the miraculous coming true for yourself and others. That ought to lighten up your life quite a bit, and allow you to reflect the sanity that lies at your true Source.

There, in the clarity of that improved reflection, we realize the funhouse mirror distortions our ego causes us to see—the illusion that we're much taller or wider, that our head is so much bigger than everyone else's (when really, we're all just about the same size). It's not the mirror that causes the distortions, it's only our distorted ego. Smooth that surface out flat with a calm, deliberate, repetitive circular motion, until the reflection invites you in— through and beyond your ego illusions. Feel the freedom of becoming that truth that lives beneath your fearful projections.

"To identify consciousness with that which merely reflects consciousness, this is egoism."
                      Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras, II.3

There will always be little surface smudges, and underlying distortions, but the more you experience the sense of transcendent being—that expansion of Consciousness into our deeper dimension of being that occurs when we lose "our self" in the act of polishing, the greater ease you'll experience in every other moment too, and the better you'll feel about reflecting your true potential—which is only limited by your imagination.

With the mirror cleaner, you need never obsess on the flaws again, because you'll see—clearly at last—that your reflection is something of unimaginably great beauty. You are a perfect expression of the greatest, deepest, and most beautiful mystery of all…a perfect expression of Life's Consciousness that all of this world will reflect back to you. 

Sit, and if you "polish the mirror" patiently, soon you'll be able to step right into it, and into a whole new world, where all you need is to simply be who, and what you really are—a remarkable reflection of the miraculous.  

Read about this and much more in: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor  from Llewellyn Worldwide available direct or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!


  1. Thank you so much for your post. This post really help me a lot and I have learnt some new things from your blog. I am bookmark your blog for future visit.
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  2. In 2011, researchers at Harvard University discovered that meditation can effectively change the biological structure of the brain. The study showed that 8 weeks of meditation (one specially made to reduce stress) could increase the thickness of the hippocampus, responsible for learning and memory. Also, there was a tendency to decrease the volume of the amygdala, responsible for fear, anxiety and stress.