Table of Contents
Polarities within the Cosmic Mirror
More excerpts from the book
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The House of 1000 Mirrors
There is a Japanese folktale that portrays the power of the cosmic mirror. The folktale takes place in a small village in a place known only as the "House of 1000 Mirrors."
Long ago in a small, far away village, there was a place known as the House of 1000 Mirrors. A small, happy little dog learned of this place and decided to visit. When he arrived, he bounced happily up the stairs to the doorway of the house. He looked through the doorway with his ears lifted high and his tail wagging as fast as it could. To his great surprise, he found himself staring at one thousand other happy little dogs with their tails wagging just as fast as his. He smiled a great smile, and was answered with one thousand great smiles just as warm and friendly as his. As he left the house, he thought to himself, "This is a wonderful place. I will come back and visit it often."
In this same village, another little dog, who was not quite as happy as the first one, decided to visit the house. He slowly climbed the stairs and hung his head low as he looked into the door. When he saw one thousand unfriendly looking dogs staring back at him, he growled at them and was horrified to see one thousand little dogs growling back at him. As he left, he thought to himself, "That is a horrible place, and I will never go back there again."
The happy dog sees the reflection of his warm and friendly attributes in the one thousand mirrors. The second dog sees the reflection of his mean and unfriendly attributes. The wisdom embedded in such allegories and Zen-like stories is profound. Yet, it is not easy to grasp how to make use of it in our daily lives. It is one thing to recognize the wisdom and quite another to constructively apply it to ourselves. A View from the Cosmic Mirror help you do this.
Table of Contents
THE FOUNDATION OF THE COSMIC MIRROR
Chapter 1: The Nature of the Cosmic Mirror
Chapter 2: Reflections of the Shadow
Chapter 3: Reflections of the Aura
Chapter 4: Polarities: Finding the Other Half of Our Self
Chapter 5: Projection and the Cosmic Mirror
Chapter 6: Magical Thinking and the Cosmic Mirror
EVERYDAY ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE COSMIC MIRROR
Chapter 7: Mothers and Fathers as Mirrors to their Children
Chapter 8: The Gender and Romance Mirrors
Chapter 9: Scapegoats as Mirrors: The Dynamics of Blaming
Chapter 10: Icons and Leaders as Mirrors
Chapter 11: The Cosmic Mirror in America's Work Groups
Chapter 12: The Crazy Mirror
REPARATION AND HEALING
Chapter 13: Seeing through the Mirror Darkly
Chapter 14: Uncovering the Emotional Side of the Cosmic Mirror
Chapter 15: Using Our Feelings to Guide Us through the Cosmic Mirror
Chapter 16: Putting It All into Practice
Polarities within the Cosmic Mirror
In the natural world, everything is opposed by its opposite -- for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is true about what we see and our own perceptions of others -- we are often aware only of the polarity associated with an action. We often miss the equal and opposite polarity pushing to react back.
Here's an experiment to illustrate this. Concentrate for about thirty seconds on the four dots in the middle of the picture shown below. Then, take a look at a white wall and start blinking your eyes. You will see a circle of light. Continue looking at that circle. What do you see?
Here's another example. In the figure below, look at the space in between the dark segments. What do you see? Does an illusion of circles appear? Do the circles appear brighter than the background? In fact, they are not! This is the dynamics of opposition at work.
Here's another example. Stare for about 30 seconds at the colored flag below. Then look at a white wall. Do you see the American flag in the correct colors?
Like the physical universe, our psychological universe operates this way too. People, too, are made up of polarities, often disguised as one. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, American televangelist Jim Bakker, Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, and New York governor Eliot Spitzer are but a few examples. (Take a look at the Cosmic Mirror Blog for examples of polarities that are being played out on the world stage!)
... more from A View from the Cosmic Mirror
Mirroring is not simply a metaphor for a mental process. It is a physical process as well. Scientists who study nerve cells in the brain have uncovered the physical basis of mirroring. They call these specialized cells mirror neurons . And they have found these unique neurons in monkeys, birds, humans, and other species. These nerve cells fire when we watch other people performing an action and when we imitate the same action. These neurons are located in the part of the brain that controls thinking and action. Studies of human infants suggest that the system of mirror neurons develops in the first year of life. And it leads infants to imitate and understand the actions of others. For example, a one-day-old infant will stick out his tongue in response to a parent sticking out their tongue! Another everyday example of mirroring takes place when someone yawns; inevitably, their yawn is contagious, and like a mirror image, we yawn back. Scientists also believe that mirror neurons are the physical source of empathy. It seems we do not simply learn to be empathetic. We are hard-wired to be emotionally reflective of others' feelings. In fact, neuroscientist Marco Iacoboni argues that the concept of "self" and the concept of "other" are meaningful only as they interrelate. Without a concept of the other, there would be no concept of self and vice-versa. He theorizes that mirror neurons in infants are formed by the interaction of self and others. As he puts it, "In other people, we see ourselves with mirror neurons."
Throughout the ages, learned scholars, philosophers, and sages have advised us to search for our innermost self in the reflections of those who we encounter in our daily life. For example, the Siddha yoga guru Muktananda declares, "There is a great mirror in the Guru's eyes, in which everything is reflected." But in and of themselves, memorable remarks like this one do not provide the guidance needed to apply their insights to our everyday lives.
This is the central theme of this book. Our outer world, which we label "reality," is linked to the inner world of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, perceptions, wishes, and fears. The view we have of ourselves mirrors what we see in the world. The view that we form of the world, with all the people and objects in it, is a reflection of all that we carry inside ourselves. To resolve the personal and interpersonal struggles we face in our everyday lives requires learning how to know ourselves in deeper and more profound ways. To do this, we must learn how to see ourselves more clearly in the reflections surrounding us. It is our reflections in what we are calling the cosmic mirror that reveal a more complete view of ourselves. And how we see ourselves affects how we see and treat others.
Most of us imagine that reality exists "out there" in the world. The basic assumption underlying A View from the Cosmic Mirror is that we create and construct our own reality by the way we perceive the world. And this in turn affects how the world sees and treats us. Here's an example of how this works. To the left, you will see a woman spinning, but which way is she spinning -- clockwise or counterclockwise? How you answer that depends on how you tend to see the world. The so-called "reality" of how she is spinning is actually a product of your own construction.
To finally become emotionally awake to the hidden parts within us is an extraordinary experience. But it first requires discovering our unseen but true reflection of our innermost self. We cannot really know ourselves without an awareness of how others in our lives function as mirrors to us. Often without our knowing it, they reflect back to us submerged and concealed parts of our self. It takes learning how to see these reflections to really know ourselves in depth. It takes others to help us find the parts of ourselves that are hidden in their reflections. Using examples from history, pop culture, and from our everyday experiences, A View from the Cosmic Mirror takes you on a journey of self-discovery. It is a journey that we hope will awaken your unseen but life-affirming reflections in the world around you. Consider this your wake-up call.
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A man was thanking god,
For everything he had done for him.
He then added, "But God, I have one question for you."
"Why do you allow all the suffering in the world?"
"Why don't you do something about it?"
God answered him, "Oh, but I did.
I created you!"
If the cosmic mirror is all around us then how do we use it to discover our own reflections? It's not easy. It requires some degree of risk-taking. And then, we must overcome our fears over and over again. But just like anything else that is strange or new or mysterious, with practice, it becomes less difficult. We learn to acclimate. We adapt. And with that, we grow. We then see that we can have something new: we learn that we have a choice . We can face our fear and move forward toward growth or we can withdraw into what feels familiar and safe but keeps us shackled in an unsatisfying or unworkable routine. Take the first step: dare to know yourself.
Here's an archetypal story that depicts part of this uncovering process ...
There once was a castle in a forest.
But one day a hunter went out into the forest,
But didn't come back.
And then two hunters went after him.
And they didn't come back.
And five hunters went after them.
And they didn't come back.
And ten hunters went after them.
didn't come back.
And twenty hunters went after them.
And they didn't come back!
And pretty soon, no one went into the forest ... again.
Then a young man and his dog came upon the castle.
And he asked, "Gee, is there anything interesting to do around here?
So the young man and his dog ventured out,
Into the forest ... deeper and deeper.
And all of a sudden,
A hand came out of the earth,
And pulled the dog down!
Well ... the young man didn't get hysterical or anything,
And said to himself, "This must be the place!"
Well, the young man came upon an opening in the earth,
And he went down ... and down ... and down.
Deeper and deeper.
Until the earth opened up,
Into a big underground cave.
And at the back of the cave,
He saw a Wildman.
The Wildman was sitting in a cell,
Unaware of the young man's presence.
And saw the cell door ajar,
With the keys in the lock.
And before the Wildman could turn,
The young man had locked the wild beast
in his cell!
Snarling and growling at first,
The Wildman began to plead to be let go.
This is when the young man began
To listen to the Wildman's story.
The Wildman told of being on the earth,
Just like the hunters and the farmers and the shopkeepers.
But that many tragedies had befallen him.
Many traumas ... many losses.
And he became bitter.
And hid away in the earth.
But as the young man listened
And the Wildman felt relieved!
"Please let me out of here," he begged the young man.
And the young man said,
"I will if you promise to not harm another again."
And the Wildman was so grateful someone had listened to him,
He made the promise.
And the young man could see he was sincere,
And opened up the cell.
The Wildman's face had changed.
And as he left the cell, he pointed,
Even deeper into the cave.
And out came all the hunters.
And out came the young man's dog.
And everyone returned.
Up ... up ... up ... onto the earth.
And there was peace in the forest again. *
* I am grateful to Robert Bly for telling this story that appears on a video recording entitled, A Gathering of Men.