Quite recently, I was in a team meeting that reviews the quality of services that clients receive at the non-profit agency I work for. There was one person reviewed that struck me. The concern was whether or not this child was exhibiting symptoms of psychosis. Under the rationale for why, the document said
"Client states that when he looks in a mirror, there is someone looking back at him".
In a semi-joking manner, I said to the group. "Isn't that how mirrors work?" (insert laughter here...) But, in all seriousness, that IS how mirrors work. When you place something in front of them, they reflect back what is there based on the way the light hits the reflective surface. If I look into the mirror, the reflection of my face is "looking" back at me.
If our "mirror" is clean, accurate, and unobstructed, we see the world as it truly is. We are able to be present in our lives without hindrance and are liberated to live according to our true selves.
What then is the problem? Mirrors can be distorted. They can have imperfections that change how things are reflected. Like a fun house mirror, our reflections of the world can be inaccurate. Our minds are twisted and skewed by the things that we have learned through language and experiences that shape how we understand and inaccuracies get projected onto our mirror.
In our world today, there seems to be a lot of projection and skewed understanding about our world and the beings that share our planet, including our own fellow human beings! This is not new of course. There are countless histories of misunderstanding, prejudice, and violence in the world. It does seem that the stakes are different in our current context, and the opportunities for change are beyond ripe, and maybe even starting to turn foul. While the foulness of rotten fruit seems discouraging, there is something that is carried forth, and that is the seeds of growth. These are what must be planted and nurtured. We must be the agents of change, and in order to do so we must attend to our own mirrors and respond to the world with clear understanding.
How is this done? Attention and practice. We all struggle and experience dissatisfaction, this is the first noble truth in Buddhist teaching. We become attached, which keeps the cycle of dissatisfaction going, this is the second noble truth. What this means is that we cling to our ideas in an inflexible manner, and don't allow for the possibility that things may be different or not a permanent state. So then by practicing letting go, and turning our attention to the world around us. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you touch? What do you smell? What do you taste? And simple observe the "suchness" that is there without judgement or distortions, only then can we make more accurate observations and respond with wisdom. This takes time and effort. It also takes compassion for your self, and to recognize that distortions are also a reality that must be accepted and not ignored or explained away. Once we accept, we acknowledge the need for polishing and re-shaping our distorted view. Once this is accomplished, the distinction between our "self" and the reflection disappear, and only truth remains.
May we all be bright mirrors of truth in the world!