Category: On Meditation Page 1 of 2

Meditation Dangers

Meditation Trauma – Is it Real?

I listened to a fascinating interview on meditation trauma recently with Willoughby Britton, a neuroscientist who has done research into the negative effects of meditation. Apparently, she has received a great deal of backlash for her findings.

While I don’t agree with everything she says, and certainly not with the way she says it, I do think the pure science of her work is not only helpful but important, especially as a meditation teacher. To dismiss it would be incredibly negligent. 

This controversy reminds me of a few years ago when in the yoga world, a lot of the talk was about the injuries yogis were experiencing from their practice. Suddenly, headlines in the field were warning of the physical dangers of yoga poses and the hip replacements that were necessary. Now, we go from the physical to the mental realm to discover that meditation can also be “dangerous”.

Maybe It’s Us

Here’s a thought. Maybe it isn’t the yoga or the meditation. Maybe it’s us and the way we adopt practices! Unfortunately, we live in an era in which yoga and meditation, originally spiritual practices, are adopted by secular fields such as sports in the case of yoga or  psychology or personal development as a panacea for stress in the case of meditation. But meditation is not “a treatment”. It is a humble spiritual practice.

Just as if people enter a yoga practice unaware of a structural configuration that would otherwise bar them from certain poses, if people enter meditation with unresolved trauma, and we all have unresolved psychological issues, those issues will remain unresolved for both students and gurus alike. The problem really isn’t the practice; its these unresolved psychological issues of the practitioner. I wrote a post about who shouldn’t meditate and it began to address this, though in hindsight, I could probably update it to include “the perfectionist” or spiritual striver who overenthusiastically wants to outdo everyone and breakthrough ordinary reality.

Symptoms of Meditation Sickness

Being human is risky, psychologically speaking, so there are risks to any activity a person may engage in…even meditation. Let’s take a look at some (you can find more here) of the more common symptoms that a meditation practice can bring to the surface in the form of a healing crisis:

  • Sleeplessness
  • Headache
  • Flashbacks
  • Dissociation
  • Feeling Out of Control
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Negative Rumination
  • Intensified Emotions
  • Diminished Emotions
  • Memory Loss
  • Paranoia

Meditation can also create new challenges such as a kundalini awakening, hallucinations, and even psychosis but I don’t really want to go into these type of issues that can arise out of spiritual practice because most people will never encounter them. These certainly aren’t the type of meditation students I attract.

What Do the Symptoms Tell Us?

Such symptoms are a sign that something is not being addressed. Either we’re ignoring some underlying issue (which could include addiction of some sort) or we’re trying too damn hard or doing too damn much thinking than is good for us. Or we’re not expressing the truth of our practice with someone who can reflect back to us.

There’s no point (aside from commercial greed) to ignore that these symptoms can and do arise. But there’s also no point in either fearing them or avoiding meditation altogether because of them.  We just have to be aware of them and aware of ourselves and when our practice might be bringing out some new psychological toxin. Then we can address the reality of our situation by pausing practice, seeking support, and doing the necessary inner work, even if this means we let go of our practice for a time.

Be What You Are

I have often questioned myself whether my own revered nondual gurus such as Ramana Maharshi or more recently, Robert Adams, weren’t, in fact, experiencing some form of mental illness to have dissolved any sense of a separate self. That may indeed be our true nature, and yet, here we are…living in a world of duality, be it maya or not. So how realistic is it for me to follow their lead and expect or even strive for the same results? I don’t have an answer. I don’t need one. I let life take care of life. I am in this body perceiving through these eyes.

But there are plenty of people in this world who aren’t comfortable holding questions. They either collective-evidence gather to confirm their biases or overdo everything and feel entitled to peak experiences and/or unearned achievements. If a five-minute mindfulness practice is good, then a month-long silent retreat with ayahuasca and daily power yoga all while fasting has to be better. It’s never helped anyone to storm the impenetrable Gates of Heaven. It’ll boomerang and you’ll end up fried.

So How Should We Practice?

The best and safest way to approach meditation is to have no preconception of or expectations from it. I think a contributing factor to meditation trauma is how it breaks up our belief system, so the looser we can hold what we think we know before we even start meditating, the better. Forget about all the tales of reward too. Assume there are none. There’s no goal to reach. There’s no breakthrough just around the corner. Meditation isn’t an act. It’s a being.

So why do we bother? It probably wouldn’t surprise you that here at Divine Me Time, the belief is that the practice absolutely must come not from a motivation of “self-improvement” or “self-help” but from the soul (sole) wish of opening up to Spirit, whatever form of higher power works for each individual. Without that, we’re either just relaxing (and there’s nothing wrong with that) or trying too hard which is often fed from a lack of self-acceptance.

There also has to be a level of self-compassion and self-awareness. No guru can really teach you to meditate because you have to be able to discover what works for you. You have to discover your own truths about it and trust in those truths. You have to communicate your experience when working with a teacher. Abdicating your reality to a guru who him or herself might have some unresolved trauma or blindspot is only going to bring confusion and second-guessing.

In the end, the greatest advice ever given is to know thyself. And isn’t that what meditation is really all about?

 

Who Shouldn’t Meditate

I sometimes answer questions on Quora. I guess I’ve always had a secret desire to be an “agony aunt” offering advice and words of wisdom to those suffering from things I’ve overcome. I hate seeing people suffer needlessly. I recently came across a great question asking if there was anyone who shouldn’t meditate, so I took on the challenge of answering.

One might expect my answer as a meditation teacher to be “everyone should meditate” so even I was surprised to find myself typing the following:

Who Shouldn’t Meditate

  • If a person has unrecognized or unresolved trauma, it might be best for that person to get support for that before adopting a meditation practice…or at least meditating under the guidance of someone who can also support the psychological stuff, reason being that meditation can drudge up things we haven’t dealt with including traumatic memories.

  • A person who cherishes a sense of victimhood and doesn’t want to take responsibility for their lives or isn’t willing to look inside, stop blaming others, and stop repressing, projecting, or denying the shadow should definitely avoid meditation. They will only, at best, turn meditation into a practice that reinforces their ego rather than one that breaks down and frees them of their belief system.

  • And finally, anyone who struggles with both accepting paradox and recognizing hypocrisy and who likes being right more than seeking and understanding an indescribable truth should avoid meditation at all costs, lest they think themselves gurus and start teaching others!

That said, I really do think everyone should meditate. Whether we want it or not, we all need it (or some form of self inquiry). So if I can be of help in your discovery or deepening of your practice, reach out or come find me on Insight Timer.

The Meditation Solution

PROBLEM:

     You name it.

SOLUTION:

     Meditation.

The Meditation Solution to Every Problem

The other day, my husband asked me the common question, “How are you today?” I noticed my mind start to parse through my experience in order to answer that question. In an instant, my mind went to the challenges I was facing, the news headlines I’d seen, and the frustrations of daily life. I caught myself and instead stopped the thoughts and answered, “I’m great if I don’t think.”

Some may think that not thinking is actually an avoidance of life, and it certainly can be. When we fill our lives with external voices, activities, and entertainments, we are definitely avoiding what’s inside. That’s not the kind of “not thinking” I’m referring to. I’m talking about the practice of becoming quiet, frequently referred to as meditation.

This solution to the overwhelming problems the world faces may seem overly simplistic and ineffective against the evils we face. Many may read and dismiss them with a snort, “Yeah, I’ll just meditate the political filth away while the rich get richer and future generations are enslaved.” But that kind of (fear-based) response is because many people are still entirely focused upon and entrenched in externals., disconnected from who they really are. If we only understand life according to the world we see around us, then meditation is an ineffective ritual equivalent to shutting one’s eyes and hiding under the covers.

Meditation Solutions

A Deeper Reality

But there is another world inside. And while it may be subtle and difficult to feel (at least at first) and express due to the limitations of language, that doesn’t make it any less valid. In fact, the more one spends time there, the more one generates grace and the more one realizes that stillness, silence and spaciousness offer a truer reality, allowing us to access the deeper drives creating the world we see around us.

For example, we can often be in a mental state of alarm over something ‘out there’. There certainly is no shortage of threats these days. Our minds may toil to understand according to past experience or find routes of escape or resolution in the future. But if we close our eyes (or even leave them open) and come into the present moment, chances are you’re not being chased by a lion in the immediate. You likely are breathing, heart-beating, clothed, sheltered and possibly even well-fed. There is stillness underneath the rise and fall of your breath. There is silence under that throbbing heart and anxious mind. There is space in which one can float, free from the grip of thought. That’s your reality. And solutions can only arise…well, good solutions…can only arise from that place. Otherwise, decisions are either snap and arising from fight or flight or are overthought, leading to second guessing and paralysis. The habit of doing anything to avoid the fear can even mean trusting people you absolutely shouldn’t. This perpetuates the cycle of suffering.

The Challenges

The challenges to meditation are twofold. One) we have to be willing to sit and be fully present with the fear that is generated by our thoughts. And that is miserably uncomfortable. We may feel the urge to bolt, to get up and get busy, or be led by our minds right back into thought. And two) we have to be willing to go beyond the mind that tells us if we don’t think, if we don’t solve the problems here and now that we’re being irresponsible or bypassing our reality. Going beyond the mind with which we’ve come to greatly identify over our entire lives is no easy task and exchanging what seemed like tangible reality for a less comprehensible one can at times seem like an exercise in futility. But, if we just STAY, we can incrementally or even all at once discover that NOTHING WE THINK IS REAL. It’s simply a narrative of what is real.

Granted, it is exceedingly difficult (if not completely impossible) to meditate when under real threats unless you are some kind of enlightened master already. That’s why you have to start now. Practice, practice, practice. It’s not a quick fix; I’ll give you that. But it is a fix. It’s really the only true and lasting fix.

 

About the Author:

Beth Ciesco is your Selfcare Specialist, a certified yoga teacher and meditation facilitator. Check out the rest of the website to learn more about Restorative Healing YogaMirror MeditationE-Motion Alchemy, and Voicework as capital S Selfcare tools. You can also follow her on these sites:

❤ Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/divinemetime/
❤ Insight Timer: https://insighttimer.com/tranquilliving
❤ Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@DivineMeTime

The Mirror Meditation Project

The Mirror Meditation Project
Level 1 Foundational Training is Here. And it’s free!

“I love mirrors. They let one pass through the surface of things.” ~Claude Chabrol

Mirror meditation makes use of the mirror as a meditation aid to increase one’s concentration, open one’s perception, and deepen one’s meditative state. The first and only training of its kind, this introduction to Mirror Meditation is about genuine self-transformation and realization. You’ll learn foundational theory and important concepts to developing a successful practice and have access to written and guided video meditations to acquaint and deepen your experience with this amazing path and prepare you for more advanced trainings.

Learn more about Mirror Meditation.

Register on DivineMeTime Learning.

Ray Man Shabad in English

The Ray Man Shabad is a beautiful prayer that made it’s way into my life unexpectedly. I fell upon the following video accidentally on Youtube on the New Year. Upon giving it a shot, I was hooked and decided to do the 40 days. Without understanding why, I was so filled with smiles and joy every time I practiced (and still am). I became so enthralled, I had to study the meaning of the prayer.

I was able to find two different translations which assisted me in creating a combined translation which I expanded with more modern symoblism, in a sense, personalizing the meaning for myself. I offer it here as inspiration. Give the practice a try and see what you feel.

Oh my mind practice daily in this method…

Let Truth be your horn, sincerity your necklace, and meditation a reminder that you are “ashes to ashes, dust to dust”. Practice self-restraint. Cease the burning of lower desires and let the soul (self) be the alms bowl in which you collect the sweet Naam, the Name of God, the only support you ever need.

Waves upon wave of melodies, passions, and emotions arise and flow through you. Listen to the reality from this highest place of awareness. Bind with and disappear yourself in the song of God, that sweetest ecstasy infused with Divine Knowledge.

The demons and demi-gods of realms beyond will be amazed, and the sages intoxicated with delight. The sage listens without being caught in duality; the sage drinks in the nectar of the heavens and is carried to the Ultimate Heaven in a divine chariot.

Be instructed by your soul, practice with discipline, and chant the Name of the Lord, even while silent. Meditate daily unto infinity until you are meditating without meditating.

If you would like to enjoy the Kriya that inspired my contemplations of this prayer, you will find it here:

https://youtu.be/vXW-Id4jjw8

Are We Meditating Yet?

Meditation is wildly popular and its benefits repeatedly proven by science. There are groups of meditators all over the globe — in ahsrams, in offices, in neighborhoods, churches, schools, and health centers. Maybe you’ve even taken up a practice yourself. Would you be shocked if I told you that you may or may not actually be meditating?

“Then what they heck do you think I’m doing when I make that commitment to sit on a cushion or chair, close my eyes, and cease all activity?” you may be thinking. Well, it depends!

Usually, we are simply preparing for or practicing to meditate. We are concentrating our mind. We are strengthening our awareness of our awareness. We are watching our sensations, thoughts, and feelings. But all of these things are “a doing”. True meditation is not a doing. It is beyond doing.

Beyond the doing is where we discover actual meditation. It’s when the body stills, the mind quiets, and the watcher of it all dissolves into something bigger, like a drop of salt water in an ocean. It is completely effortlessness. We are not sitting and meditating. We no longer identify as a mere person. We see with the eyes of the Divine.

And the eyes of Spirit are not so enticed by visions and memories, fantasies and imaginings. The eyes of Spirit remain outside of time. Concepts are recognized as empty, meaningless…even the idea of meditating.

 

Creating Space in Meditation

One of my meditation clients asked me recently if I would write about the concept of space and its importance in meditation. I’m grateful for what is sure to be a challenge, so here goes.

Let’s start with a definition. Space is one of the five elements along with earth, air, fire, and water. Also referred to as ether, space is both a container for all that is and a vast expanse and emptiness. The experience of space, at least for me, is a key component that arises out of meditation practice.

Form does not differ from Emptiness
And Emptiness does not differ from Form.

Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form.*

As an element, or something of which we ourselves are comprised, if we have an imbalance of ether, either too much or too little, we will experience that symptomatically. Too much and we may feel literally “spacey” or have difficulty concentrating. Too little and we may be quite preoccupied with insignificant details or feel lack of divine connection. A balance of the element results in harmony and inspiration.

So, I don’t want to give the impression in writing about space in meditation that there is anything one should or must do in order to experience or foster space. Space is always there. We simply need to be aware of it. But if you’ll forgive me, I will bring the reader’s attention to three aspects of space for contemplation.

BODY

While we meditate, our breath itself can be the entry point to our awareness of space as we feel the space of the lungs filling and emptying. We can bring our attention to all the empty spaces in the body…between the bones, the organs, between the cells, and even between the atoms of the cells. When we feel pain, we can work to bring our breath and a sense of spaciousness into the pain and notice any shifting that results. As we sit still, we can turn our attention toward the body in space and feel how our awareness expands beyond the body.

MIND

We can also bring our attention to the space within the mind. This is accessible through the senses, such as noticing the bed of silence upon which sounds in the environment are occurring, for example, or by noticing that one perceives a smell in the room and how that odor might originate in one location and spread upon air molecules through the open space to our nostrils. We can also utilize an awareness of passing thought. When we place our attention on the silence and the gap between, it is as if we are expanding space. It seems to grow. But as I’ve said, it was always there. With this cultivated spaciousness in the mind, we can question our thoughts and inquire into our true nature.

SPIRIT

The final point, if there was a final point, could be said to be the expansion of spirit. It is the recognition that we are, in fact, both within and without that very spaciousness that we are noticing. We are both form and formlessness.

Finally, I will share a message that came to me in a dream the night that mother died. She was quite ethereal but unmistakable herself, yet she didn’t speak. We stood at a window, the sill at about waist height. She pointed with great insistence to a spot on the window sill, as if it held great importance. I followed her finger, gazing at the tiny details of dust particles that had collected. And then, we began to rise off the ground, her finger still pointing, but as we rose, more and more came into my awareness. From a focal point of a spec of dust, to the color of the paint, to the panes of glass, to the frame itself, and outward. Up and up we went, my awareness expanding to include more and more, out from the window now, to the wall, to the house, to the city, to the country, to the earth, to the sky, to the universe…and every detail was contained within the space, but the space was eternally expanding and more and more inclusive and aware of not only everything inside of itself, but of itself as well.

Rather than impose any further interpretation of this dream on you, I will refrain and let you sit with it yourself.

Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha*

(Gone, gone, gone to the Other Shore, attained the Other Shore having never left)

*from the Heart Sutra

Wait! Stop Trying to Meditate!

Despite that fact that there is now almost daily new evidence that supports the importance of and benefits received from meditation practice, there is still a lot of resistance to actually doing it. I’d like to take a look at that today. Why is it that so many people, often the people who need it the most, believe they can’t meditate or think it cannot help them?

I’m not saying it is the answer to everything nor am I claiming that one size fits all. (The latter idea is as far from my philosophy as it could be!) However, I do believe with every inch of my being that there is a form of meditation available for everyone be it through physical yoga, chanting, mindfulness, music, breathing, mudra, cooking, painting… One just has to discover what works best and then approach the activity with the proper intent.

So, what exactly are the reasons that come up for why people don’t want to meditate?

I can’t sit still that long!

I’ve heard a lot of people lay claim to this. The idea of “doing nothing”, even for 10 minutes, is too much to bear. The moment a person sits still, all the feelings, thoughts, and problems that she’s been pushing away with constant activity come flowing in like a tidal wave. It isn’t a comfortable feeling.

Early one, when I was forced to silently meditate sitting with my teachers years ago, I would be in absolute hell waiting for them to just get on with the teachings. I would hear myself begging for it to come to an end. Somewhere along the way, that agony left me. Gone. No trace. Poof!

Restlessness is a completely expected stage of meditation, often much worse in the beginning, but it also comes and goes throughout a lifetime of practice. (I can still feel restless from time to time.) If you aren’t willing to work through it, you are giving it power over you. If this is your sole reason for avoiding meditation, I urge you to simply sit with the resistance. The payoff is so worth it!

It’s boring.

There are those who experience meditation as boring. Being still, following the breath, focusing on the body is not enough to entertain the raging monkey that is the mind. These types tend to need constant stimulation and input. They need the radio or TV on, even if they aren’t listening or watching. What do they think all that stimulation is doing? It is distracting them. It is stealing their energy and making it harder for them to know themselves. It is filling them up with worthless noise and making it impossible for them to hear their own answers. It has trained them away from the subtle of life to such an extent that they actually believe the universe could ever be boring!

I actually feel worse when I meditate. My mind is so loud!

Similar to reason number one, this resistance presents itself when people have a misunderstanding of what meditation actually is. They think they are supposed to have no thoughts at all, a blank and quiet mind. But that just isn’t realistic. The stream of thought is incessant. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s a misconception to think one isn’t meditating if one is thinking. Let the thoughts come. Watch them as they do. Then watch them as they morph and go. They are fleeting even if they are torrential! Don’t give them your attention and run around trying to extinguish them. Let them be. You keep quiet! If you find this impossible, then support yourself with a structured guided meditation, such as this one for self-compassion.

I’m too busy/I don’t have time.

This is such an empty argument. All it means is that the person doesn’t really want to do it. Sure, meditating for 20-40 minutes is ideal, but even 5 minutes before bed is better than nothing, and I’m sorry but everybody has 5 minutes before bed. Heck, even 3 minutes of focusing on the breath and body is sure to impact your sleep and dreams in a positive way.

I meditate on my own.

There’s nothing wrong with this. I meditate on my own all the time. But when I have groups at the house, I am always blown away by the force in numbers. I’m inspired by their challenges, insights, and energies, and I am often amazed at the depth of my own meditation when others are present and we are all supporting one another. The experience is enhanced. So, if you find yourself making excuses not to go to a meditation group or class, ask yourself if you are cheating yourself of a deeper experience. There is a reason that Buddha made the Sangha one of the three refuges.

Meditation is a waste of time.

Perhaps they’ve tried and “failed”, or they’ve never even bothered to try; they’ve simply decided. Really, if someone holds this idea, then they probably just aren’t ready to meditate for whatever reason, be it deep-seated fear, religious judgment, or some self-sabotaging beliefs. But it is based on a misconception. Meditation cannot be a waste of time. It can only be wasted.

The gifts one receives from a regular meditation practice are so glorious and liberating (and yes, challenging and difficult at times), but if you remain blocked by any of the above excuses, they are a treasure you will never discover. But don’t “try” and work through these blocks; none of these block, not even the latter, are substantial. Stop trying so hard. Meditation is an effortless state of simply being.

Don’t worry. You’ll find your way. Only you can!

 

 

Carl Jung

“He who looks in the mirror of the water, first sees his own image. He who looks at himself, risks to meet himself. The mirror does not flatter, it shows accurately what is reflected in it, namely that face that we never show the world because we hide it by the persona, the mask of the actor. This is the first test of courage on the inner path, a test, which is enough to frighten most people, because the encounter with oneself belongs to those unpleasant things, one avoids as long as one can project the negative onto the environment.”

Carl Jung

Mirror Meditation: 12 Steps to Allowing and Nonattachment

As author Paolo Coelho writes, “If you’re afraid — don’t do it; if you decide to do it — don’t be afraid.” It’s great advice for anything, but especially applicable to mirror meditation. Mirrors get a bum rap, made notorious in horror films and touted as tools for narcissism or platforms for self-hatred. It’s unfortunate, because I have found mirror work to be a most powerful form of communion.

Meditation: Beyond the Trend

medI recently came across a fascinating article about how different types of meditation affect the brain differently written by

The article distinguishes two main types of meditation: directive and nondirective. For the sake of clarity here, directive meditation requires a focusing of the mind on something whether it be one’s breath, an object, or a thought. Nondirective meditation, on the other hand, allows the mind to rest or wander freely. In other words, there is very little effort mental exerted.

The research discovered that those in the study practicing nondirective meditation actually had more neural activity than the directive group.

Nondirective meditation led to higher activity than during rest in the part of the brain dedicated to processing self-related thoughts and feelings. When test subjects performed concentrative meditation, the activity in this part of the brain was almost the same as when they were just resting.

These results suggest that nondirective meditation is more helpful when it comes to processing our thoughts and feelings. If the whole point of one’s meditating is to “know thyself”, then it is clear which form of meditation would be more beneficial.

Last night, my meditation group worked with a Gyatri Mantra meditation, listening to a drone and powerful chanting created by one of my favorite online resources for chants, Dr. Nipun Aggarwal. Afterwords, one of my fellow meditators wanted to know whether what we had just done was the first type, directive, or second type, nondirective type of meditation.

I realized that it wasn’t so much the technique as it was the meditator that would determine which “type” of meditation was experienced. This woman expressed that she was mentally focused on counting the lines of the mantra and so felt as though it was a directive meditation. I, though, had had a nondirective experience allowing the sounds of the mantra to simply wash over me. Thoughts came and went. I do remember at one point turning my attention toward the practice of circulating energies of the Microcosmic Orbit, so there was for several minutes, a more directive experience for me as well.

This all has me asking more questions. Is is possible that these two forms of meditation, or what are classed and treated as two distinct forms of meditation, are really only one form of meditation experienced at different levels of ability? Is the goal, in other words, always nondirective meditation? Assuming the person meditating is doing it to “wake up” to the self, then wouldn’t nondirective meditation be a higher form of meditation than anything directive? In fact, what are the benefits of a more directive form of meditation if such a form doesn’t help us process our thoughts and feelings? It is merely reduced then to a form of relaxation or exercise for the mind?

I recently shared a post on Facebook how meditation is a growing trend. I commented that I was happy to see more and more people learning to meditate but not at all happy it was “trendy”. One of my friends asked me why: More people are exposed to it with greater benefit; what’s bad about that?

At the time, I didn’t much feel like trying to explain how when things go trendy, especially spiritual things, they also get watered-down and greatly misunderstood. It happened with yoga, and now, while there are of course those who do understand, many turn to yoga as a mere physical challenge, completely and ironically ignoring the body in the process. It is likely to happen with meditation as well. If people do not understand the differences between directive and nondirective meditation, there is a grave danger in masses of people thinking they are meditating when all they are actually doing is concentrating and bending the mind to will. Worse yet, there will be those who take The Mystery out of meditation completely sterilizing it in the process. I’m not saying just because it is trendy that people won’t benefit from meditation. That didn’t even cross my mind (until someone I know explained that’s how they read this). I just want everyone to have a chance to experience the best that any meditation has to offer.

Setting aside the “trend” debate, everything has its place. We all have to start somewhere, and often, directive forms of meditation are the easiest. It’s where I started. I suspect it’s where most of us start. I’m not claiming to know that nondirective meditation is somehow superior to directive forms, either. I’m merely asking the questions and sensing what has been true for me. I love many different forms of meditation, including directive. But I must say, for me, the most transformative of experiences have been resting in the wide (and wise)  open space of the self, being still but observant, free from efforting, concentrating, and controlling anything. It took a nondirective practice for me to experience that.

 

Osho Quote

“If you can become a mirror you have become a meditator. Meditation is nothing but skill in mirroring. And now, no word moves inside you so there is no distraction.”

Osho

 

Paul Morand

“Mirrors are ice which do not melt: what melts are those who admire themselves in them.”

Paul Morand

Elizabeth Gilbert

“A true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.”

~Elizabeth Gilbert,  from Eat, Pray, Love

Mirrors in Magic

Mirrors have a historical starring role in magic shows. Illusionists use them to create their spellbinding, entertaining deceptions, making things like an elephant disappear or levitate. Of course, all but the more basic of tricks are carefully guarded secrets. What fun is a magic trick if you already know how it is done? Don’t worry. I’m not going to give away much. Mostly because I can’t! Instead, I’ll just share a brief introduction of mirrors in magic.

Mirrors can strategically bounce light in different directions and make one think one is seeing what he or she isn’t. Mirrors can also conceal what is hidden behind them. Add controlled light to the mix, and you have the ability to fool the eye and convince the mind of all kinds of things.

Magicians aren’t the only…um…magicians who use mirrors. Mirrors are used in theatre and film (and increasingly in art) for special effects as well. To get a taste of what they can do, check out this brief video introducing mirror magic.

If you do want to know more about how a couple of traditional mirror tricks were done (and are still done), check out this cool link or this one.

As far as Mirror Spiritus is concerned, it’s all light and mirrors. The world we see around us, the life we live, is the grandest illusion of all.

Kahlil Gibran

“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.”

Kahlil Gibran

The Chinese Magic Mirror

I’d never seen or heard of a Chinese magic mirror, not until investigating the use of mirrors in magic for this site. I didn’t get far in my research, because I became fascinated with this ancient art. When I first read about it, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the concept. Seeing was believing; this video made it quite clear:

The magic mirror dates back to the Han Dynasty of China (that’s about 206 BC to 24 AD). They are made of polished bronze on one side and an intricate design on the other. When one holds up the polished side to a light source, the symbols on the back side are projected mysteriously, as if the whole thing is transparent.

Apparently, some mirrors exist that actually project an entirely different or secret image than the one carved into the back of the mirror. Fascinating! Now I want one!

The Sun King & His Hall of Mirrors

The French king, Louie the XIV unveiled for us the immensely beautiful Hall of Mirrors (also known as the Galerie des Glaces) in his palace at Versailles in 1684. This hallway was a tribute to light, decorated with 17 grand windows opposite 17  mirrored arches with dazzling chandeliers dripping from the ceiling and gleaming silver furniture. There are actually 578 total mirrors in the room. Can you imagine? Some components of the hall were sold to help finance the war in 1689, but much of it remains intact for lucky visitors today.

The hall was constructed to signify France as a powerful cultural and economic center, but it also served to magnify life in court. Mirrors were a symbol of wealth, and not just because of their great expense. They radiated light. Indeed, Versailles was a symbol of the center of the Universe from which all power emanated outward. It was Louie himself who chose the symbol of the sun to represent him, thus staking claim to his nickname, The Sun King. The hallway was used regularly for family and court functions and as a daily passageway. What would Feng Shui have to say about that!? And could we please all meet for a mirror meditation there?

Interestingly, the Hall of Mirrors is located between the Hall of War and the Hall of Peace, in which the Treaty of Versailles was signed many years later, bringing an end to the first world war in 1918.

To learn more about this lavish and fascinating building and time in French history, visit The Chateau Versailles.

Shakti Gawain

“The people we are in relationship with are always a mirror, reflecting our own beliefs, and simultaneously we are mirrors, reflecting their beliefs… one of the most powerful tools for growth…”

Shakti Gawain

Mirror Superstitions

Many of us know that if we break a mirror, it is considered to be 7 years bad luck, but I’ve never met anyone who could tell me why. Fortunately, I’ve never had the misfortune. Have you? Even if you have, I’m pretty sure you can relax and lay to rest the age-old superstition which dates back (at least) to our Roman ancestors. (I say at least because there were many ancient cultures with similar beliefs about the mirror and it’s ability to reveal the soul.) The idea stemmed from a belief they held that A) mirrors did indeed reflect the soul and B) life renewed every seven years. To break a mirror would damage the soul that was reflected in it at the time. Mirror Spiritus suspects our souls are a lot more resilient!

Still, this superstition really got around. Early American slaves were not immune. In their case, they had the perfect antidote. You could wash away those 7 years with 7 hours of soaking the shards in a river heading south.

The superstitions surrounding mirrors involve more than broken pieces however. Some believe death is close by when a mirror falls and breaks by itself. Others are fearful of mirrors in a room where someone has died, lest they catch a glimpse of themselves, as this portends another visit from the angel of death…for the viewer! In Feng Shui, mirrors should be hung at the perfect height to avoid headaches which can occur if the top of one’s head is cut off in the mirror. I have to wonder if that’s superstition or just common sense. And for all you thespians out there, you might be familiar with the belief that looking into a mirror over someone else’s shoulder is likely to bring about some bad luck of your own.

Did you know that mirrors in Feng Shui are believed to absorb the negative energy in a room? That mirrors are used to contact the “other side” and tell the future? And did you know you should cover your mirrors at night lest your soul wander and get trapped on the other side? Did you know that a marriage will be happy if the newlyweds see each other in a mirror? Did you ever hear that burying pieces of a broken mirror could save you the years of bad luck? Or that a girl could catch a glimpse of her future mate by eating an apple and brushing her hair in front of the mirror?

The list of mirror superstitions goes on and on. One can’t help but wonder at the truth that is buried beneath all the fear. Could it be that mirrors really do hold some mystical, other-worldly power over man?

N…yeah, we don’t believe it either. Not because a mirror is an inanimate object with no mystical properties but because the stories and ideas of these properties has been blown so out of proportion with the truth. Take, for example, movies such as Oculus or Poltergeist, which have made mirrors symbols of horror.

We assert that the power remains in the one who uses the mirror as a tool…not within the mirror itself and definitely not with some “other side”. That isn’t to say they can’t help improve an environment or reveal some deeper truth to what they reflect. In fact, mirrors are just as equally symbols of self-knowledge, deep wisdom, and purity in literature and art. At Mirror Spiritus, we lean in this direction and away from fear-based superstitious nonsense. In the end, mirrors may indeed reflect the soul, and that is something to be embraced, not feared…unless you’re a vampire! ; )

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