3/18/22 — Reveal Yourself in the Mirror

It’s no good giving my heart and my soul because you already have these. So I’ve brought you a mirror. Look at yourself and remember me.” ~Rumi

If you want to be a more effective communicator, a less anxious speaker, a more soulful person to be with, start by talking with yourself in the mirror one minute a day and see where it takes you.

Mirror work is a game changer. There have been various applications of it in the worlds of therapy and coaching over the years that guide people down into their depths over a period of months or years.

I have refined and tested a gentle one-on-one 15-minute protocol designed to have immediate positive impact.

This 15-minute dose of alchemy came into being when it dawned on me that in leading more than 500 Zoom Speaking Circles the last two years I had developed the capacity, within minutes, to establish and hold a kind, effortless, nuanced virtual space for participants to access their true voice and clearest thinking.

This 15-minute version evolved and crystalized from my explorations of comic soul, lightness of being, and effortless listening I’ve been writing about here in recent weeks.

3/25/22 — My Friend in the Mirror

These sessions have been a revelation. I get high on them.

I’m not the first to suggest that getting to know oneself in the mirror is a great idea, Self-Love 101. What’s new here is the explosive synergy of mirror work and Speaking Circles.

I, for one, have found a best friend in the mirror, an actual life companion. When I started engaging I wasn’t thrilled with who I saw, all jowls and age spots. Talking to myself felt awkward. It took 10 minutes to hang in and move past the surface and start to see parts of myself I hadn’t engaged for a long time, aspects that are useful in business, friendship and love.

I’ve become familiar and affectionate with my “resting face,” the one people see when I’m not trying to engage or impress. This has allowed me access a more natural smile that starts in my eyes and lights up my face.

4/1/22 — The Mirror Knows All

We have to confront ourselves. Do we like what we see in the mirror? And, according to our light, according to our understanding, according to our courage, we will have to say yea or nay – and rise!” ~Maya Angelou

As we awaken to the aliveness at the core of our being through our eyes in the mirror, these 15-minute sessions have been transformational events for some, and pleasurable experiences for all.

Here is a representative response in an email I received this week:

“My 15-minute work with you was a turning point in my relationship with myself in the mirror. Before today, I looked in the mirror and saw my aging, and checked if my hair needed correction. Now I can look deeply into my eyes and see the ageless, kind soul that I am and meet and greet him in love. Then I might or might not check my hair. Thank you for an invaluable gift.”

I invite you to commune with your essential goodness and lightness of being. You might start with complaints about yourself, but if you hang in they will pass as you recognize more and more of who you really are.

The mirror knows all. It is an alchemical portal. I welcome the opportunity to guide you in utilizing it as such.

4/8/22 — Mirror Work Alchemy

Among the 50+ of you with whom I’ve done 15-minute mirror work sessions the last 3 weeks, many are therapists, healers, or spiritual practitioners who have done many years of inner work.

Yet few had found a true friend in the mirror. The protocol I devised that provides a clear path to a sustainable friendship arises from the synergy of mirror work and Speaking Circles. This is becoming the most rewarding work I’ve done.

Just yesterday (4/7) I worked with a journalist/author who couldn’t get past the stink-eye coming back at him through his mirror. Ten minutes into our session he talked about being unable to stop scrutinizing himself. “Aha!” I thought, his profession is all about scrutiny, that’s what he gets paid well for, and he has had no means to lay it aside when regarding his self-image.

So I asked him to exaggerate the look of scrutiny and judgment with which he was seeing himself. When he was in full sourpuss, I asked “As you look at yourself … can you laugh at what you are seeing?” He belted out a great guffaw and said, “Yes I can, easily!” I asked him what was so funny. He said, “Cause it’s so wonderfully self-deprecating.” And we laughed together heartfully.

The suggestion I left him with was to make that face to the extreme whenever he sees himself in a mirror, and to allow the relief of laughter. I have no doubt that if he does this each time before he shaves, brushes his teeth, and so on, he will forge an easy friendship with his real self that will ease his anxiety about looking shaky in his upcoming book tour talks. This was the concern that impelled him to come to Zoom Speaking Circles in the first place.

Two hours after the session, he emailed, “Success! I glowered myself into submission.”

4/15/22 — Keeping Your Own Counsel

The primary guideline that made Speaking Circles state-of-the-art for solving public speaking anxiety is for the speaker to be only and always with one listener at a time.

This protocol may at first seem counter-intuitive, but it turns out that it can be practiced and grasped in a few sessions. Done right, this “come from” turns public speaking into a series of private one-on-ones.

Necessity being the mother of invention, two years ago we translated this protocol to Zoom with an innovation that works wonders by recreating in-person eye-contact.
(See 7-minute video for how we do this.)

With the advent of mirror work we now have a solitaire version of Speaking Circle where you do the work in the privacy of your own mind.

In this iteration, the person you are being with as you speak is yourself. The 15-minute mirror work sessions I’ve done this past month (70+ of them) has moved those critical of their image onto a direct path to getting over it. And it has moved those who already feel good about their image to find an unexpected new source of love in the mirror.

Once you find a friend in the mirror you can take Speaking Circle turns into your own receptive eyes to great effect. In one- or two-minute turns, for starters, you can keep your own counsel by conversing with yourself:

  • To gain clarity around something or someone you are dealing with.
  • To determine an action step to take (or not take) at the end of the turn.
  • Before making a sensitive phone call or sending an email or text, to see the bigger picture and act from there.
  • When feeling down, to remind yourself who you really are beyond this feeling.
  • When feeling up, to see with gratitude the love that you are.
  • And countless other possibilities.

4/22/22 — Transcending Self-Judgment

Imagine unexpectedly running into a dear friend on the street. Can you sense the broad smile and laughing eyes taking over your faces when you spot each other?
(Will you take a moment to imagine that?)Isn’t that the exact smile you deserve from yourself when you look into a mirror? I was never able to give myself that kind of authentic smile until I started playing in the mirror a few months ago. Now I can’t help but beam with delight when a mirror is there, even if I was feeling down a moment before. This is what I mean by having a dear friend in the mirror.It seems that I’ve turned the mirror into a window to my soul.Last week in separate sessions, having transcended self-judgment, two mirror workers explored that friendship and found themselves honoring the ancestral lineage they discovered in their faces. I share their words with their permission:“Seeing my face in the mirror this way feels like a portal into connection with the world and with my ancestors. There’s this emotion that comes from seeing the ancientness in my eyes and the love pouring out through the lines in my face. I see the friend, my ever-present friend, supporting me.“In this way of connecting with myself through this little makeup mirror … this little time machine … I don’t mind the lines in my face the way that I do when I’m transactional with the mirror. There’s a life here beyond what I look like or what kind of day I’m having. When I feel into the ancientness, I have a vast sense of self that is supported by my ancestors who are always there for me. It gives me a broader sense of self that is empowering.”
~CJ, San Francisco
“When I looked into my eyes in the mirror there was this pivotal moment when I saw my dad, with the squinting lines in his forehead and tension around the eyebrows. I started thinking, “oh, I look like my dad when he’s worrying and I don’t want to.”“Then all of a sudden I thought “Wait a minute, my dad is represented to me here, so what else is represented?” In that moment the answer came through the mirror that unconditional love is represented here. This is when I entered the portal, went through the door.“In a flash I saw layers of my dad, then a little bit of my mom. Then there was the ‘aha!’ moment that here in the mirror is the intersection of now and all of my family line culminating in this moment. So, when I think ‘I’m not enough’ – what am I even talking about? That’s not even a thing. That’s in the realm where judgment and shame, right and wrong live. But this higher realm is bathed in love, non-resistance, openness, meaning, strength and power.“This mirror work practice is so grounding. I’m actually connecting to all that is, to source, and to all that was, right here in my mirror.”
~LR, Littleton, CO
Would you take a gentle minute in the mirror now and see who you see?

4/29/22 — With Curiosity & Appreciation

My extensive mirror work/play the last six weeks has led to a simple, elegant 5-minute-a-day practice. I am encouraging those I’ve worked with to try it on for 7 straight days. This will be enough to see if it opens an invaluable door to self as it has for me and others.

If you haven’t worked with me, I invite you to try this practice and let me know how it goes for you:

For one full minute in the morning, and another before sleep, be with yourself in a mirror in kindness and curiosity. Just breathe deep, soften your eyes, and hang out with yourself. That’s it!

After that minute, if so moved, take a minute or two to tell yourself what you saw, what you see, and what’s new.

Do have a timer go off so you don’t have to keep glancing at a clock.

In this practice you may notice that there is always a new and useful awareness that applies to your life right now. But rather than looking for a breakthrough, just be with yourself in kindness and curiosity and see what comes up.

If you haven’t worked with me and find yourself beset with judgments that stop you in your tracks, you might schedule a 20-minute session with me toward transcending self-criticism in a gentle way that has worked for most of the folks I’ve met with.

If you try this practice, would you let me know what you are noticing? We will soon have the Mirror Work Alchemy website up with a blog for practitioners to share what comes up when they give themselves the kind of quality attention we all deserve

5/6/22 — Cultivating Kind Eyes

This week, after two months coming to terms with myself in the mirror, I discovered a key to jumpstarting this path of self-kindness: I can flow kindness through my eyes whenever I choose!

It struck me then that many kind-at-heart folks do not have a knack for letting that kindness show up in their eyes when it would do the most good.

This led to the “aha!” that the capacity to gently flow kind eyes at any moment is an essential element of success in business, in leadership, in love.

I discovered this week that one can cultivate kind eyes by giving them to oneself in the mirror for as little as one minute a day. All it takes is some practice and encouragement, and I am here as the encourager.

A photo of me at age 4 reveals kind eyes. Childhood photos after that present a chubby face with flat affect. Where did my kind eyes go? Well, I remember my grandmother’s kind eyes, an oasis of safety for me when she lived with us for several years. My mom too had kind eyes, though hers were compromised by compulsive niceness. I’d say that kindness to others flows from self-kindness, whereas niceness can be motivated by fear.

The men in our home (older brother, father, grandfather) did not have kind eyes. I buried my kind eyes under a bushel at an early age because they weren’t safe to be seen around the men.

It took me 75 years to rescue my kind eyes and get them back in high-def like the boy’s in the photo. I keep a mirror handy to micro-dose myself with self-kindness as needed.

Mirror Work Alchemy can transform a mirror into a window to the soul.

PS: Zoom Speaking Circles are an ideal place to cultivate kind eyes with others.

5/13/22 — Powerful Tenderness

In the first 6-minute turn of a Zoom Speaking Circle a few nights ago, a participant spoke with poignant eloquence about her family witnessing the conscious death of a loving mother.

My essence appreciation for her was “powerful tenderness.” In their turns, the others, having dropped down into that soulful place, went on to share meaningful stories from their lives.

The potent notion of “powerful tenderness” stayed with me the rest of the Circle, and the rest of the night, and is still here at the end of the week as I write this.

It strikes me that powerful tenderness (“loving kindness” as Buddhists would say), is the primary quality I want/need to flow to my loved ones and to myself. This is especially so in these perilous times of national and global turmoil.

I’ve found that just a couple of minutes of mirror practice a day has gotten me to where I can flow powerful tenderness through the mirror into my eyes at any moment.

Thirty seconds of this gentle self-focus can soothe my savage nervous system and fill me with calm for an hour.

This has become a common experience for some mirror work practitioners, even those who’d done decades of inner work without having gotten past a kind of “mirror anxiety.” You see, rampant judgment around our self-image is endemic in our society due to associations from childhood, sometimes traumatic ones.

A psychotherapist in her 70’s with judgments about her aging face had a peak experience in the first 5 minutes of our session and exclaimed with a laugh, “Oh, this is how God sees my wrinkles!”

My Zoom office is open, just bring a mirror.

5/20/22 — Mirror Anxiety

I’ve introduced my Mirror Work approach to many warm, wise folks who at first had difficulty communing with their reflection.

This week I realized a good reason for what I’m calling “mirror anxiety” that stops so many from seeing beyond surface image and judgments into their real, best self in the mirror. This includes many who’ve done decades of inner work.

It struck me that how I was seen every day as a child by those closest to me had a traumatic impact on me by shaping a negative self-image.

My dad looked at me with contempt, saw me as the problem. He routinely shot daggers at me through his eyes, sometimes accompanied by the words “You rotten kid, ya.”

My older brother delighted in tormenting me at every opportunity, signaling through smirking eyes that he had me under his thumb.

My nicey nice mom often regarded me with pity through sad eyes. She knew what hell I was paying for being in this family, a hell she shared with me but could not speak of.

No wonder I couldn’t see myself in the mirror through empathetic eyes. I saw myself as they saw me. I went into my teenage years assuming that men had contempt and women felt sorry for me.

Over the decades, through therapy and spiritual work, I recovered a modicum of self-esteem to get me through. But it wasn’t until I devised a practice that is a synergy of Speaking Circles and mirror work that I found a trusted friend in the mirror with whom I can actually talk.

One of the things “we” talk about is the residue of trauma still in my tissues from those early years being mis-seen. As I gaze in the mirror imitating the way each of them saw me, I sometimes feel righteous anger and express it. Sometimes I have sorrow to share, and sometimes laughter at how clueless they were to be blind to this wonderful young human in their midst.

“You were wrong!” I can say with a smile.

My Zoom office is open, just bring a mirror.

5/27/22 — Level with Yourself

Relational Presence calls for being available with kind eyes to one listener at a time. This is the behavior we practice in Speaking Circles that is state-of-the-art in dissolving public speaking anxiety. (See video.)

I’ve been writing articles here about this path for 17 years, but only a few months ago discovered that developing the capacity to be relationally present with oneself in the mirror makes being present with audiences so much easier.

In this current series on Mirror Work Alchemy, I report that ease in the mirror is rare even among many who’ve done decades of inner work. This is because “mirror anxiety” in our society is subtle and widespread, stemming from how we were seen daily in childhood by those closest to us. Many of us grew up seeing ourselves in a critical light, and still see that in the mirror.

This week I came up with a foundational mirror work exercise toward cultivating a realistic self-image. All it requires is 3-4 minutes, a mirror, and a way to make an audio recording, for which I use my iPhone:

* Record a 1-2 minute Speaking Circle turn in the mirror (no need to time it) talking to yourself with kind regard.
* Play the recording back while looking in the mirror with kind regard.

That’s it! As you listen to yourself through your eyes you will hear/see how much sense you are making or not making, and where you might start another 2-step exercise in this path of leveling with yourself.

If you find you are upset with yourself, express it. Anything goes — anger, doubt, questions, empathy, perhaps secrets you wouldn’t tell anyone else.

For this process to work wonders you need to enter it with a degree of positivity in the mirror. I can help get you to first base with your self-image in a private session. My office is open, just bring a mirror.

6/3/22 — Self-Talk

Words matter. And the words that matter most are the ones you say to yourself.”
~David Taylor-Klaus

Mirror Work Alchemy has led me to the core issue of self-talk, our chattery inner voice we are often not aware of.

Self-Talk is the most important conversation of your life.”
~Jesus Apolinaris

Talking with oneself in the mirror brings the inner voice into consciousness. If you are critical of your image such that you can’t hang out kindly in the mirror, that’s inner voice malpractice.

Your self-talk creates your reality.”
~Abhishek Kumar

When we get past the inner critic in the mirror, we can practice talking and listening to ourselves in ways that can significantly improve our reality.

Via self-talk we give our mind instructions on what we expect of ourselves and so behave accordingly. Change the instructions and we change the outcomes.”
~Sam Owen

To see if there is magic in your mirror, I ask you to try a simple one-minute exercise. While you keep kind company in a mirror, play this audio of a 30-second quote I read to you, listening to it through your eyes.

Then take another 30-seconds or more in the mirror to share with yourself where those words take you. Silence is okay too if you stay with yourself. At the end of the minute you’ll be able to see the quote and attribution on your computer screen.

Would you let me know how it goes?

“You’re always with yourself, so you might as well enjoy the company.”
~Diane Von Furstenberg

6-17-22 — Ojos Amables

Yesterday (6/9) I returned home from a week in Ajijic, Mexico, 45 minutes south of Guadalajara on the southern shores of Lake Chapala.

The area has a large ex-pat population. I visited to see if the area might be a place for me to relocate if my raging nervous system finds the USA unlivable in the coming months/years.

I was struck by the abundance of kind eyes (ojos amables) of gringos and locals alike when passing on the street and in stores. I exchanged countless “Holas!” all week, with sweet gazes conveying “I see you.”

I brought with me a mirror for the meditative practice of relaxing in my own eyes that I’ve been writing about here. But I never unpacked it as I found myself afloat in a sea of kind eyes out there.

According to professor and happiness coach, Nicole Fuentes, “Something other than income explains happiness. Mexicans are ‘overachievers’ in the production of happiness. We produce more happiness per dollar or squeeze more juice out of the same lemon.”

I passed extended Mexican families in street cafes and on the beach, talking, laughing, singing. And when I’d catch an eye they’d smile as if I was part of the family.

Back home, I observe how we well-off norte-americanos are often isolated behind our eyes. So I’m back with the mirror, hoping to nourish my own kind eyes and extend them more to my fellow Americans, as well as to visitors from other countries.