Self as mirror

photo of Gwen Randall-Young

by Gwen Randall-Young

How will you become a clear mirror if you resent being polished?
~ Rumi

Life does have a way of revealing to us where we are tarnished. Situations will trigger energetic places within us that do not feel good. These places are generally associated with the ego aspect of our being. When we feel resentful, competitive, offended, or are being manipulative or dishonest, there is a gut feeling that is unpleasant at best – toxic at worst. Often our attention is focused on the people or situations that created this feeling in us, which only intensifies the toxicity. It does so because this response takes us into a place of polarity. An adversarial stance requires a judgement about rightness and wrongness. It appears to create winners and losers, but in reality, everyone likely loses.

Often, we are aware of a lifetime pattern that seems to repeat itself. The same things keep happening again and again. People keep treating us in the same unsatisfactory way. Friendships or business deals turn bad. People let us down. We may not realize that the same things happen again and again because we are the same.

Imagine we are mirrors. If we are tarnished, we cannot reflect clarity. Nothing beheld by our mirror will look clear, or as it really is. The world, as reflected by our mirror, will always be tainted. If only we could polish it up, restore it to its original purity, everything reflected in it would look so different. So, what is it that tarnishes our mirror? The simple answer would be to say anything that is not love tarnishes it. The worst offenders are attitudes of judgement, criticism, separateness, seeing things only from our own point of view, and a need to be right.

If we have a problem in our lives, it is interesting to take a step back to see what is really causing our distress. We will find that it is not the external even that is distressing us, but rather our response to it. If someone lets us down, we can see it is not the event itself creating our pain. What creates the pain is our interpretation of what their behavior implies, or our belief that they should have acted differently. The distress originates within us, even though the trigger for it may be external.

Sadly, for ego, nothing in life is ever all about us. Whenever we are involved with others, things become infinitely more complicated for ego. Polishing our mirror means clearing away the limited perspectives of ego, so there is room for compassion, understanding and acceptance. It is realizing all of life is a conversation, not a soliloquy.

Imagine that each person’s life is a big jigsaw puzzle, and that each of us is a piece in the puzzle of all those in our life. Now imagine that the pieces are not fixed and rigid but can flow and adjust themselves infinitely. If there is an intention to maintain harmony, it is easy to see how things could fit together nicely in any circumstance. Alternatively, the more rigid the pieces, the less likelihood of a fit there will be. If one piece believes it has only one shape, and refuses to consider any alteration to that shape, then in order for it to fit, all the other pieces must reshape themselves. The chances of everyone reshaping themselves just so one piece can feel right are remote. Consequently, that one piece will not find any of the other puzzles to be particularly hospitable places.

Polishing our mirrors removes those places of rigidity and allows for more fluidity in our perceptions. Whenever we experience conflict, tension or disharmony, it is likely that we need to look at ourselves as much as the other. Rather than resenting the suggestion from others or from our own higher wisdom that something needs polishing, we can learn to welcome those opportunities, knowing we have nothing to lose but a little tarnish—and a lot to gain in clarity.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. To read more articles, order books or listen to audio recordings, visit, or follow her on Facebook.

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