using life experiences as mirrors of self

At some point in history, several highly evolved civilizations flourished on our planet. They were responsible for creating some of the breathtaking ruins and sites that still attract visitors and researchers, such as pyramids, rock statues and ancient temples. When these civilizations disappeared, a lot of their profound wisdom got lost with them. But some of their teachings have been recovered. One of the most powerful teachings is about the mirrors that others offer us so that we can learn about ourselves. The Mayan’s had a famous calendar and used their own astrology, with signs that you could compare to the zodiac signs we use in modern astrology. One of the phrases we often find when studying their astrology, is ‘In Lak’ech’, which means ‘I am another you’.

In Aboriginal teachings, we learn that there is always a reason why the person exactly in front of us is sitting there during group gatherings. This person is reflecting something back to us. They say that the things we admire about that person reveals what we admire about ourselves. What we find most annoying or upsetting about that person reveals what we dislike about ourselves. Often, we weren’t even aware we had these characteristics in the first place. So, investigating these mirrors that are presented to us, offers an entry-point to getting to know ourselves more thoroughly. Knowing ourselves fully opens the door to working on forgiveness and healing, changing our beliefs, and becoming our expanded self.

The Essenes offer us an elaborate teaching about the ‘seven mirrors of self’. Some of these mirrors include reflections about the current moment, about our judgments, about what we lost or gave away, about our parents, and about our self-perception. They had mastered the art of using relationships as a tool to learn about themselves and to heal and grow continuously. Often, when we are presented with such a mirror of self, we feel an emotional charge, and we might feel the impulse to simply remove ourselves from that person or situation so that we can feel ‘good’ again. But then we have missed an amazing opportunity. And, as long as we don’t deal with that emotional charge and what it is trying to teach us, it will keep showing up in our reality. When we keep ignoring the message, the lessons intensify over time.

We have the ability to learn to just sit with these moments of emotional charge, to accept that we are triggered, and instead of walk away or lash out at the person that triggered us, to embrace the mirror that is being offered. In relaxation, that emotional charge can serve as signal, showing us where we have unrevealed and unresolved beliefs about ourselves. Sometimes the mirror can be easily interpreted, like when we are unaware that we are radiating an energy of anger. We could be presented with unreasonable anger that lives in others during our encounters of that day. And as soon as we have accepted the mirror and allow our suppressed emotions to be processed, the encounters of that day would have a very different flavor.

Other mirrors are not as direct and easy to interpret. When we grow up, our parents might have conditioned us with certain moral convictions that we started to live by. But in doing so we have suppressed some very natural characteristics of our essence. Imagine that our upbringing dictated that it’s wrong to ask for attention, and that it’s rewarded to sit quietly in a corner during social gatherings. As adults, we might be very triggered by people at gatherings that have a strong presence and freely ‘take up space’. Then it’s likely that this is one of our natural characteristics that we have never allowed to be expressed. Investigating the trigger, looking within, finding the key of the emotional charge and the beliefs connected to it, offers a chance to become more and more authentic.

We might have been raised with the conviction that honesty and loyalty are of crucial importance, and attention and approval would be withheld from us if we showed dishonest and selfish behavior. As adults, we would be doing our best to still live up to that belief, and we are then likely to fiercely judge others that treat us dishonestly and selfishly. But that mirror could be showing us that we went to an extreme. We might actually need to learn healthy selfishness, like knowing where our boundaries are and sharing this with others, and practicing self-care without asking too much of ourselves. Every positive trait has an extreme, a shadow connected to it. When we are only focused on being selfless, it is inevitable that we get burned out at some point. So, there is a healthy dose of selfishness needed to keep our balance.

When we see something that we love and desire in someone else, this often points to a mirror of something we’ve lost or given away. By connecting to others that show these characteristics, we are somehow attempting to reclaim these lost aspects of ourselves. Imagine that we were very adventurous as a child, but that one day a serious accident happened. Our parents would have been very upset and the level of freedom we had experienced up to that point in life, had been lost. We would not want to upset our parents like that ever again. Then, as adults, we might be repeatedly attracted to partners who still have that adventurous spirit very alive and intact. This external attraction serves as a mirror, as an invitation, to reclaim that lost part of ourselves and reconnect to our adventurous spirit and trust life fully again.

Our parents have played a very important role in how we learned to view the world. The expectations they had towards us, dictated to a large degree how we evolved as human beings. Also, their ‘unlived’ lives and desires, the things they wished for themselves but where unable to manifest, are often projected onto their children. When we grew up in a poor environment, and all our parents wished for was financial and material security and abundance, we likely developed an overly active focus on the same security and abundance in our adult lives, even when the circumstances are nowhere near poverty. When we then encounter others that live completely detached from material security, let their money flow freely and don’t concern themselves with the risks of the future, this might trigger us deeply. In essence, it might be a feeling of jealousy to how they approach life, but instead it shows up in our consciousness as judgment.

The power of these mirrors can be very tangible. As mentioned before, when our perception of self and of life at a certain day is one of bitterness and anger, we are very likely to encounter a similar energy and behavior in others around us on that day. When, another day, we get out bed full of energy and positivity, we radiate this out into the world and we are likely going to encounter warm, loving energies from the people around us on that day. However, this might tempt us to ‘play nice’ at all times and practice positive-thinking affirmations. But the effects of this are merely temporary and bypass our deeper lessons. The true invitation is to embrace the mirrors and investigate what our emotional charge is revealing to us, about ourselves.

When we take these teachings from our ancestor brothers and sisters a step further, we also apply the wisdom of the mirrors of self to situations and circumstances in our lives. When we watch something on television that deeply triggers us, it serves as a mirror. When we hear a story that touches us deeply, it serves a mirror. When we see or hear an interaction between others being played out at the neighbors or in the streets, it serves as a mirror. Even the accidents, diseases and synchronicities we experience in our lives, serve as mirrors to reflect parts of us back to ourselves.

In the current unfoldings on the world stage and the media, many people get triggered. We get triggered concerning values around honesty, as many lose trust that governments always have our best interest and share the full truth with us. We get triggered in the area of freedom, as our freedom of speech and the freedom to make our own choices in response to a potential threat to our health, is drastically being limited. We might also get triggered in the area of accepting and embracing darkness and inhumane behavior, as more and more sources come to light that reveal the existence of hidden networks for human and child trafficking, (ritual) abuse, organized crime, and organized suppression of historical and present-day facts.

These intense ‘external themes’, also offer a major opportunity for healing ourselves and the collective consciousness, when we make it a continuous practice to use our triggers as mirrors for healing and integration. A more modern but very powerful teaching from Hawaii, called Ho’oponopono, invites us to see the unhealed parts in ourselves, whenever we are faced with similar unhealed parts in the external world. It assumes that all individual human beings have all aspects of consciousness, both light and dark, represented inside of them, just in varying degrees. This teaching also shows us that when we are truly committed to healing all those parts of ourselves that are reflected back to us, we actually heal the external world. In that light, our personal process of healing and expansion fulfills a tangible and undeniable part in the collective expansion of human consciousness.

In time, we might get excited when we feel triggers rise to the surface. In the beginning of this exploration of self, it might be very confronting and unnerving to just sit with every emotion that rises to the surface. The art of holding space for ourselves and our inner child doesn’t magically appear overnight, but it can improve drastically with practice. The Re-Parenting article shines a light on this process.