Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Mirrors

What Others' Imperfections Can Teach Us.

One of my Buddhist friends, a long time meditator has the annoying habit of talking too much about herself. Unresolved problems from her childhood, complaints about her health, blow by blow account of her daily activities . . . I get to hear it all. She does it not just with me, but anybody who is willing to lend an ear. It has gotten to the point where I dread being in situations where  I know I will have to interact with her.

Visiting my mother last week, I experienced much joy, and also annoyance. Alzheimer's erases parts of one's personality and magnifies others. In my mother's case, her excessive attachment to material things has been let loose. In the nursing home where she lives, she is known as the lady who "owns a big house, with two cellars, and three gardens". When I saw her, she repeated often, "I am very rich, you know". While I knew how to be patient and validate her sense of worth, I really cringed inside.

My friend, my mother, two people who can get under my skin, real fast.

Of course, such irritation deserves some investigation. While I have been trying hard to keep the self-making mind in check, I also know I am no different from my Buddhist friend. The need to tell my story, to complain, to blab away, to be seen, is there still, and surfaces when I let my attention wander. Same with my mother. I have had a complicated relationship with money. While not a material person, per say, I also suffer from insecurities in that area. Envious of the nuns' detached existence, and fearful of the homeless life, that's me!

My friend, my mother, two mirrors for which I am extremely grateful.

Who are your mirrors?


  1. Our stories, we are so attached to them! I used to watch my daughter as a small child and if she didn't understand something or it troubled her she would use them in her play. In a way I think we are like small children and we think if we talk about it enough we will make some sense of it. It takes so long to realize some things have no discernable reason and others things will make themselves clear in their own time, if we just leave them be.

    Eek, your post makes me conscious of how much "me" there is in the personal dharma tales I tell in my blog!

  2. Yes, "It has gotten to the point"

    I avoid encounters with one of my older siblings, my sister. I do not like that, what and whom she blames. She does not take responsibility for her thoughts and feelings, in my opinion. This annoys me. I am concerned.

    Then there is an old friend who gets easily angry and seems to think always he is right. I see a part of me envies his attitude and would like to be this way, too.

    I also am angry, judgemental, irresponsible and envious at times.


    "Acting out and repressing are the main ways that we shield our hearts, the main ways that we never really connect with our vulnerability, our compassion, our sense of the open, fresh dimension of our being. By acting out or repressing we invite suffering, bewilderment, or confusion to intensify."
    Pema Chödrön

    "What gets awareness, changes"

    I trust. :-)

  3. My daughter is my mirror she is quite a perfectionist and she exhibits sometimes paralyzing fear at the concept of not doing something absolutely perfect the first time. That fear usually comes out in anger however and that is my Achilles heal. Generations of Scottish rage that I inherited but I am making great strides, but when she loses her cool, man do I ever see myself. Stops me in my tracks.

  4. Carol (zendotstudio) I agree with you that we humans have this innate need to create a personal story. Sometimes it is a nice story, sometimes not so nice. Sometimes we get attached to one when we would better served by dropping it. I am thinking of persons who see themselves as victims for instance. One of the great contributions of the Buddha's teachings, for me at least, has been the recognition that we are not our stories. Hence the newly gained freedom to just be, according to the needs of the moment.

    As far as too much 'me' in your blog, I have never felt that. Everything you write is personal of course, but in a very egoless kind of way. Reading you feels like a blessing, not a drag. So, please do continue to put some of your 'me' into your writings . . . :)

  5. Doris, yes, so many mirrors we have! In fact every single encounter is an opportunity to claim back all the facets of ourselves, the bright and shiny ones, and the dark and dirty ones also. That's the beauty of being in the world and in relationships, when viewed under that lens. This is something that has taken me some time to appreciate.

  6. BD, I have learned so much from my two daughters, also, often times in ways I did not wish for. Some of my deepest inner work I have done as a result of my imperfect mothering.

    I wish you well in your future interactions with your daughter. That she be a bright mirror for you to continue to claim even more of your wholeness!

  7. Marguerite, the three mirrors which rotate around me at odd times are my sons. although i see unwanted characteristics in my narrow social environment, it is family which ultimately points to unresolved areas.
    Time has done most of my work, reading blogs such as yours has accomplished much in vicarious ways; and then zen.
    Practicing detachment, focusing and learning to listen have worked in tandem with coincidental healing.
    Coincidental? or accidental? The mirrors may prove otherwise, they have grown--i have shrunk into a more manageable size and lessened expectation.
    I feel a wonderful peace emanating from your acceptance and practice.

  8. Dear Nadine, I have found children can be quite harsh and merciless towards their parents, particularly during teenage years and young adulthood. This used to be a great source of suffering for me, until I realized I had a choice, to take on the criticisms and internalize them, or to let them slide, keeping the mind pure of ill thoughts. Children have to go through their own journey, that often includes saying and doing whatever it takes to fly away from the nest. :)

    Lessened expectations are so good. Then no risk of disappointing!

    I wish you continued healing with family, and meanwhile, practice, practice, . . . and writing.

  9. Perhaps the adage "we see as we are" applies most to the idea of mirroring.

    Parents always seem to reflect those carried patterns of the self-made mind. For me, the unknown shame of my parents consistently arises in my behavior. That translates into aversions that apparently have no origin, except when looking in those mirrors.

    Thanks for the post. Mindfully provoking and provoking mindfulness.

  10. Thank you Jamison. Grown child - parent, such rich mirroring opportunities as the internalized parent keeps bumping against the actual parent. Enduring life traits in the parent that caused us grief, now bouncing off each other, causing much reactivity, until we finally 'see' . . . And then in turn, our own children show us parts of ourselves that we would like to forget. All part of the human existence. :)