A Reflection on Mirror Gazing

What do I see when I gaze into a mirror…? Am I doing the seeing or am I being the seen? When does seeing (or being seen) become not an act of will, but simply being – arising, hanging around, then dissolving?

I have been exploring different practices introduced to me in this year’s study group of the Pratyabhijñahrdayam, a text that has offered me a rich experience of the non-dual philosophy of Kashmiri Shaivism. One of those practices is mirror gazing as a meditation, as an exercise in “interchangeably playing the roles of object and subject.” (From Ruvinsky et al., translation of verse 3 in The Recognition of Our Own Heart.)

I gaze at my reflection in a mirror, first as the subject, then as the object, and then perhaps being both, “reciprocally adapting.” While doing so, I can get caught up in the thoughts and the doing of this reflection practice:

What a big forehead. Such bushy eyebrows. My right ear sticks out. Aging, ugly face. Why am I doing this practice? What would happen if I let go of assessing, comparing? I remember the eyes of the homeless man. I sense something more behind my reflection. Ever-changing. Appearing. Dissolving. Blinkless blinking. I’m bored. My eye disappears. How am I seeing without my eyes? There It is! Then it’s gone. I start over.

So, to shift my attention away from the mental activity and to invite wordless receptivity, I decide to add drawing to this mirror practice. After an initial few minutes of gazing at my reflection, I reach for pen and paper and begin to draw. Without looking down at the paper, or lifting my pen, my hand traces what I am seeing. Thoughts intrude and “I” get in the way as again my mind wants to take over (I look down “what a bad drawing,” “that’s not where my nose belongs” or lift my pen and place it where it “should” go). But each moment presents me with the choice to let go of the mental control and return to just gazing and drawing.

After the meditation, an hour, a day, a week later, the drawing is coloured. I reflect on the created image. It is so ugly yet so beautiful. It doesn’t look like me, yet it does. I am fascinated! I and the drawing reciprocally adapt to our interchangeable roles of subject and object. Any attempt at judging the created image can’t be sustained and slowly dissipates; the colours and shapes are so unusual, so NOT “me.” Yet, I experience a felt sense of recognition. This is also me; this is also She. This felt sense of recognition reminds me again of the homeless man … when we gazed at each other and “even in our individual forms, embodied the One”.

Adding a blind self-portrait to my mirror gazing meditation practice helped me remember what it feels like when Grace reveals Herself in me, in others, and even in a simple drawing.

Brigitte Dupuis is a retired food scientist, yoga teacher and spiritual director. She enjoys gardening, bird watching and being in all its limitations and possibilities.

8 Responses

  1. Dear Brigitte; Thank you for your thoughtful sharing on the practice of mirror gazing. I appreciated your detailed description of the process as it was a good reminder for me. And your uncensored vulnerability about your internal reactions felt somehow quite sacred. Your self-portrait from that place of contemplation was such a lovely addition to your reflections. It felt like a bonus – again something worth considering when I do this next. I appreciate you sharing your creation with all of us!

  2. Thank you Brigitte for putting down the words to go with this beautiful image. I remember how it struck me months ago, and it still does. You’re stunningly beautiful, thanks for baring yourself and allowing me to see you, on all these levels of reflection. Recognizing this, too.

  3. When I read your blog I was on the subway stealthily looking at my fellow riders, a city pastime I indulge in. Your words colored my observations and I saw their faces and felt my admiration and appreciation for the everyday struggles we all share. As I caught myself in my ceaseless creation and dissolving of the object and subject, I felt a sense of recognition of being at Heart…the very same. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  4. Thank you for this haunting memory in all its beauty and in all its vulnerability, Brigitte! I still had this wonderful drawing of you in my head and your words are resonating in my body.
    Recently, a friend’s judgmental behavior outraged me and then I realized my own judging of her. I recognized myself in her. Her vulnerability was mine; we shared our humanity. Suddenly a moment of gentleness, softness and stillness arose. My mind was swept blank. Sparked by a reflection … by the interchange of subject and object. Any need of separateness dissolved.
    How precious to be reminded of this through your post, Brigitte!

  5. From self-conscious to do-er, from judger to do-er to creator / sustainer / dissolver / concealer / and….revealer. Even in contracted form, performing the 5 acts. And recognizing her own heart. Awesome and beautiful. Inspiring creative practices as She experiences Herself.
    Thank you!

  6. I’m Glad I eventually got to read your blog and all the thoughtful comments, which deepen my own practice and inspire me on the pathless path.
    Also, your art is beautiful! Thank you 🙏

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