The magic mirror all around us

Mirrors are a source of magic and of peril, and they are all around us. There are the common looking glasses we use every day to make sure our hair is combed and there is no spinach stuck in our teeth. Random reflective surfaces display our own images back at us. We can also use people as mirrors, seeing ourselves in the feedback they share.

Feedback is helpful, and it’s useful to be able to see your own reflection, but mirrors can distort things. We’ve all seen funhouse mirrors that can make us look fatter or slimmer than we really are. It’s important to be careful when we use people as mirrors because they can cause similar distortions.

Much of the harm that comes about in this universe comes when people believe lies that other people have told them about themselves. I have been told various untrue things throughout the years, including the “fact” that I am uncoordinated. My dancing partners don’t agree, but this lie held me back for a long time. When you believe something, you give it power.

When used properly, you can learn a lot by using close friends to show you an accurate reflection. You have to understand that they filter everything through their own perspective, but people who know you really well can tell you things that you are too close to see. I’ve realized a number of very important truths in the few years due to the insight of friends. This has allowed me to get out of my own way and make progress. I could not have done that on my own, and I am grateful for what they have shown me.

I’ve also polished my own inner mirror to a bright shine. This is the most important mirror you have. Still yourself and look within. Does what you see there make sense with what you are being told? You need to listen deeply enough to get beyond the lies you may have internalized and find your own truth. This can be hard work, but ultimately you have to trust yourself and go beyond the chattering monkeys of your mind. You have the power to use mirrors for good. It is a powerful magic that is always waiting for you.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
262. Examine something that someone you know has told you about yourself. Is it a true reflection or a distortion of some kind? If it’s a distortion, think about why that might be–some people cannot see clearly enough themselves to give good feedback, while others are people that don’t belong in your life. Look in your inner mirror to find out which is which.


There is life beyond wi-fi

Recently one of my haiku friends remarked to me that it’s hard to find silence in an age where we’re all carrying around so many electronic devices. I started to think about that. It’s true in a way. If we’re not listening to music or watching videos we’re receiving alerts or playing games. We’re constantly in touch with the news, with Facebook, with email, and with other sources, so even if we’ve got physical silence, the mental silence we all need to breathe can sometimes be compromised. We are not doomed. There are several ways to combat this even if you don’t want to toss your devices off the nearest pier. Here are some suggestions:

  • Remember that they have an “off” button. You may need to be connected, but do you need to be connected at this very moment? You’ll probably be more productive if you check your email or social media less frequently and respond to everything at a dedicated time. Put down the phone and pick up your coffee. Relax a little.
  • Use the device to introduce peace and order into your day. Even though our electronics can feel like our masters, they really are tools—very powerful ones. Use a to-do app to list your concerns and get on with your day. I’ve also found some great apps that ring a mindfulness bell at random moments—when the bell chimes, I take a moment to take a deep breath and look around me. 
  • Consider observing the Sabbath. Many religious traditions set aside Saturday or Sunday as a day to disconnect from daily routines and reconnect with ourselves and our loved ones. This is a tradition you can adopt for yourself, regardless of your faith. If you simply must stay in touch, perhaps you can take some quiet time for yourself in smaller chunks. Go outside and take a walk amongst the trees. Go to a gym and sit in the sauna. Share a meal with friends.

You are in charge of your electronics. If you make your choices using joy as your compass you may find that you’re using them in whole new ways. Have fun out there!

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
229. How do you use electronics? In what ways do they enhance your life? In what way do they detract? What can you do to optimize your experience?


The number 8 will be on time and serving free coffee

I cannot control the Metro Bus. I know this, but sometimes I forget, particularly on a blustery morning when it is raining sideways. I usually use this time to blow bubbles, or wake up, or watch the universe unfold around me. On sideways rain days, however, I sometimes try to puppeteer the bus by chanting inside my head. Come now. Okay, now. You will come around the corner, and the heat will be on. Now! This minute! I mean it!

It doesn’t work. I just don’t have the power. I know this deep inside my bones, and so I only try this when I am very distracted. How do I know?

You’ve heard of trial and error? Trial by fire? I used the trial by cushion method. I’m a Zen girl, and I’ve spent a lot of time at silent meditation retreats. The schedule of these sesshins is fairly predictable—you sit still for 35 minutes, you get up and do a little walking meditation, and then you sit back down. Up down, up down, all day long. It can be intense, particularly when you are new to it. During these silent times you are supposed to be focused inward, not thinking about not thinking. One person monitors the time, and she gets up and strikes a bell when the sitting is over.

At my first retreat I spent every single sitting period thinking about the girl who was going to ring the bell. Get up, Suzy! Get up! Get up! Now! Go! Go! When I would hear her start to stretch and walk towards the wall, it would start again: Move faster. Hurry. Hurry! I spent three whole days in focused meditative silence trying to puppeteer that other Zen girl and it never worked once. What chance do I have out in the real world when I’m not so focused? None.

Why am I telling you this in a blog about joy? Isn’t a lack of control a cause for sorrow? Au contraire. When you know you cannot do something, you don’t have to waste your time trying. I find it a relief. I delegate control of the bus to Metro now. Then I sit back and I enjoy the ride.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
10. Sit quietly for a while, and try to control someone using your thoughts. When you get tired of that, delegate control back to the universe.

Just purse your lips and blow

What if I told you that you could keep hundreds of pieces of art in your jacket pocket? That in the same little container you would hold a substance that could make grumpy people smile? That this very same bottle could be an instantaneous source of personal amusement without any batteries?

How much would you pay for something like that? What if I told you that your masterpieces could fly? How much would you pay now?

You’d probably pay less than two dollars, because this little cylinder of magic is inexpensive and available nearby. Don’t send money, don’t order anything online! What is this elixir of joy? Bubbles! Pustefix is my very favorite brand, but any kind will do, and I carry them all the time. I love Pustefix because the solution comes in a brightly-colored vial and the lid has a wand attached right to the top. No more fishing in the soap, no spilling in your pocket. And they make the most glorious globes of rainbow-hued glass, floating orbs that last a long time before they burst. All these things are important, my friends.

I carry bubbles for many reasons. They give me joy, and they help me spread joy to others. I’ve heard many a “right-on” and a giggle as I blow them amongst the skyscrapers or out into the streets. (For those who do not live in the Pacific Northwest, “right-on” is the local patois of approval.) I love to watch the fluid colors move on something that seems solid, and I find that when I slowly blow out a stream of bubbles I relax without effort. I’ve never smoked, but I imagine that the slow breathing is part of the thrill. Sometimes when I need to escape a hot nightclub for some air I even stand and blow bubbles with the smokers. At those times I’ll often pick one bubble to watch as it floats up into the streetlights. I watch that very same bubble until it suddenly dissolves into the air or disappears in the wind. Voila, meditation without cushions. No stiff knees, no Zen center required. Look—up in the sky—is it a bird? Is it a plane? No—it’s bubbles! Right-on.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it:
6. Find some bubbles of your very own—doesn’t matter what brand—and try it out for yourself.