The world is just a mirror, and you are part of its reflection. But, you have a choice…
Much like the familiar adage, ‘the world is but a stage…and we all play a part,’ you are born to play a specific ‘life role’ according to your prenatal resources and background. However, as much as your role is already shaped according to the pre-determined environment you are born into, you do inevitably get to choose HOW you play your part! Just as you can rightfully choose what the mirror which you are holding reflects back at you!
So, what do YOU see when you look in your mirror? Or better yet, what does your mirror reflect besides your Self? When you hold a mirror to your face, you see yourself, yes, but you also see what surrounds you in the background. You cannot just see your reflection without having your immediate environment reflect behind you. It is impossible to separate the two. But it is possible to consciously develop the will and ability to erase the mirror images! There is an ancient yogic technique which completely enables you to physiologically disconnect from your immediate sensory environment. To shut off your senses so to speak, and draw within. Like a turtle consciously withdraws inside its shell. It is known as Pratyahara, part of the Raja Yoga Himalayan tradition, and is translated as ‘interiorization’ or ‘withdrawal of the senses.’ In our modern age, to be able to go within at will and bi-pass the stressful assault on our senses, and therefore gain control over the reflections of our own mirror, is absolutely necessary to our sanity and survival.
Likewise, who we are, what we think, how we behave and live our lives is a direct reflection of our environment. What does your immediate environment reflect back at you? Who are YOU in context to how and where you live, and who you associate yourself with on a daily basis? What are the vibrations surrounding you and shaping your character, moods, habits, and your overall physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing? Are you overly concerned with your status or appearance, and secretly worry about your ‘social image’ and how others perceive you? Ask yourself why. Pause for a moment. What is lurking in the background of your mirror? It is those very images reflecting in your background that are influencing your behavior, thoughts, and the future steps you will take on your life’s journey. It is good to stop from time to time and evaluate the direction you are heading into, and make sure it is a path that you have chosen of your own accord. Not because someone else has influenced you ‘to play your part’ a certain way. This can be the result or cost of your happiness.
There is a famous Gaugain painting entitled “Who are We, Where Do We Come From, Where Are We Going?” considered by many to be his masterpiece. I can say that this painting has influenced my entire life, the quintessential titular questions written on this colorful canvas resonating like an echo through eternity, depicting the stages of human life from birth until death. It embodies everything that great prophets, historians, philosophers, scientists, and entire civilizations have tried to capture, unearth, and express in one form or another. I myself became a student of art history and philosophy, with the insatiable scope of peering beyond the external lens of life – what the Hindu sages called the ‘lila’ or ‘play of life’ – to find the deeper meaning of it all, and what is so subtly hidden behind our material existence. To find the answers to these questions and to experience first hand the primordial noble truths unveiled by these answers, has been and continues to be my life’s mission. I began to study the Bhaghavad Gita and Upanishads, Buddhism, Zen, Judaic and Early Christian mysticism and history, and eventually settled on the deep studies of the Vedas (Hindu Scriptures) and the ancient science of Yoga (not the yoga practiced in yoga studios!), as practiced by the rishis of India since time immemorial. I better understand now, as I have always intrinsically knew and suspected, there lies something much, much greater below the surface of our mundane existence, which once pursued and unearthed will grant us the ultimate fulfillment. In order to find out who we are, where we come from, and where we are going – to get to the root of fully comprehending our true purpose and identity – we must remove all that is not US in the mirror, so that we no longer reflect anything but the Self. The yogis call it the Atman, the Higher Self or the Soul.
Back to the mirror you are holding, and the ‘play’ of your life. If you clearly know where you are headed and feel a keen sense of purpose and gratitude driving you to fully express who you truly are, then your mirror reflection is now only reflecting YOUR WILL. You are ONE with the mirror. In fact you have become the mirror itself. You choose what is reflected by the glass; it no longer chooses to imprint on you. Likewise, if you feel that something or someone else is driving or controlling your physical and emotional wellbeing and life choices then you must change your environment to reflect what YOU need and desire.
Paramahansa Yogananda said, “environment is stronger than will power” …you want to change, change your environment! If you live in a tranquil environment, you will likewise reflect and embody tranquility. If you mix with individuals who are anxious or tense, and live in a stressful environment, you will inevitably be a reflection of that environment. Your instincts, perceptions, and lifestyle patterns are a direct reflection of your environment. If you listen to the news regularly – the elaborate, overly dramatized, and graphic reports of never ending political chaos, natural and man-made atrocities and disasters – your life and your consciousness, will inadvertently reflect those seeds of fear, anxiety and uncertainty that were implanted within your psyche. It is easy to become passive and convince ourselves that we are a product of, and intrinsically linked with our environment, that we cannot escape the world around us, and therefore we have no choice but to be part of it. But our level of participation is optional. We can observe with keen discrimination what is around us, yet not choose to participate. We can engage or disengage. We can use the principles of Pratyahara and its various derivative forms which have always been an integral practice of Ayurveda, and have full sensory control of what we allow to affect or disturb us. Eventually, through this practice, which harnesses a superior sense of self-awareness, we may choose to explore how to completely remove ourselves from the ‘lila.’ First we have to be brave and fully willing to pursue that route – the route of willful detachment from that which is NOT us – and bipass or ego, self-denial, and various social and material addictions that are always pulling us back like magnets. In time, as we declare our ultimate freedom and are no longer enslaved by our environment we will realize that we can rightfully CHOOSE the images, stories, and dogmas that filter through our consciousness, rather than allow the reflections to choose and define us. Mental and emotional hijacking as I call it, is an option, not a decree. In other words, you have the right to control what you see in your mirror!
In Part 2 of this essay, I will list a Pratyahara Check-Off List, and Daily Pratyahara & Meditation Techniques which one can employ, anytime, anywhere. What you will see in your mirror as a result of these practices, and the after effects of cultivating this practice, will have a far reaching life-changing effect on your psyche, and understanding of WHO YOU ARE. A workshop will follow, and I hope that everything you read and learn will be beneficial to your happiness and Self-Realization!