Mirror, mirror on the wall – who’s the fairest of them all?
From the vanity of the evil queen in Snow White to the death of Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection, the warnings of looking in the mirror have long existed in culture and folklore.
But what if mirror gazing could actually be good for us? What if it could serve as a powerful tool for self-reflection, compassion, and inner exploration?
Yep, we’re talking about mirror meditation.
As this ancient practice is experiencing a resurgence, mirror gazing is once again being recognized as a powerful tool to connect with our inner selves, attain profound personal insights, develop self-compassion, self-embrace, and nurture personal development.
In this article, we’ll be looking at:
- History and Origins
- Benefits and Safety Precautions
- How To Perform Mirror Meditation
History and Origins
Mirror meditation is a mindful practice that involves using a mirror to make eye contact with your own reflection instead of closing your eyes and turning your attention inward.
While primarily associated with Tara Well’s Mirror Meditation Program (check out this great interview with her here!) and contemporary mindfulness practices, mirror meditation has its origins in various traditions and has been adapted and developed by different practitioners.
The word “catoptromancy” comes from the Greek words “katoptron” meaning “mirror” and “manteia” meaning “divination”. By gazing into the mirror, practitioners seek insights and guidance, with interpretations influenced by diverse cultural and historical contexts.
4 Benefits and Safety Precautions
#1: Greater emotional-awareness and authenticity
By encouraging us to observe ourselves without judgment, mirror meditation can help us foster great self-awareness, a stronger sense of self, and emotional authenticity.
By maintaining focused attention on our reflection, we become more connected and attuned to our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, offering a space for us to connect with and express our emotions in a sincere and unfiltered manner.
What’s more, looking into our own eyes for a prolonged period makes it very difficult to suppress our true feelings. This can actually activate brain regions associated with emotional processing, such as the amygdala (known as the eye contact effect!) helping emotional development.
This effect can also lead to an increased self-awareness which allows individuals to better understand their strengths, weaknesses, and behavioral patterns – forming the foundation for personal growth, emotional intelligence, and more genuine communication.
#2: Boosts self-worth and self-compassion
As we’ve all experienced, eyes play an important role in non-verbal communication, reflecting emotions, thoughts, and intentions.
By practicing self-compassion during mirror meditation, we are learning to treat ourselves with kindness and understanding. With the goal of creating connection and empathy toward oneself, the practice contributes to a positive and nurturing self-dialogue.
What’s more, the self-compassion promoted during mirror meditation is associated with the release of oxytocin which is linked to feelings of bonding, trust, and positive self-perception.
Increased self-worth and self-compassion are a cornerstone of mental well-being. It allows us to develop a more positive self-image and cultivate a sense of inner validation that is not solely dependent on external factors.
#3: Spiritual exploration
Ever heard the saying The eyes are the window to the soul? Well, there’s something to it.
Many spiritual and mystical traditions consider the eyes as conduits for spiritual insight and connection. In mirror meditation, focusing on our eyes can amplify our sense of inner exploration and connection to a deeper, spiritual aspect of ourselves.
By creating a contemplative space for self-reflection, mirror meditation can lead to a greater sense of purpose, inner peace, and experience of non-duality. It provides an avenue for us to explore our beliefs, values, and the meaning of our existence.
#4: Relaxation and grounded calm
The focused attention and meditative aspect of mirror meditation can be a great contributor to cultivating a sense of peacefulness and relaxation. The eyes can act like windows to the present moment, and help anchor individuals in the now, reducing stress and overthinking.
By creating a calm, grounded, and non-judgemental state, this practice can really help us center ourselves in the present moment. We connect with ourselves, and this can help us feel more resilient and confident, helping to feel peaceful amid life’s challenges.
In fact, a relaxed and grounded mind is so important, promoting everything from mental well-being, focus, emotional balance, and better relationships. Mirror meditation can serve as the perfect mindfulness practice to achieve this.
Mirror gazing meditation doesn’t have specific contraindications or safety precautions, however, some individuals might encounter discomfort or anxiety during this practice.
For this reason, it’s really important to approach mirror gazing with self-compassion and kindness, and remember you can always discontinue the practice if it becomes overwhelming or triggering. If it all feels too much, stop the practice and try some calming breathwork.
While mirror gazing can be a potent tool for self-reflection and self-compassion, it may not be suitable for everyone. We’ve all got our own vices and struggles at any given moment, and sometimes these might mean mirror meditation isn’t right for you at this time.
If you have a history of body dysmorphia, trauma, schizophrenia or other mental health conditions, we recommend consulting with a mental healthcare professional before attempting mirror gazing meditation.
How To Perform Mirror Meditation
- First, prepare for your mirror meditation by finding a calm and well-lit environment. The space should be quiet with minimal chance of being disturbed, where you can sit or lie down comfortably, either in a chair or on the floor.
- Position the mirror at an angle that allows for easy eye contact with your reflection – you don’t want to be straining your neck or eyes! Adjust the mirror until you find the perfect alignment for comfortable and sustainable eye contact.
- Optional: Consider using soft lighting to enhance the ambiance – whether indoors with soft candlelight, daylight, or outdoor shade.
- Next, set a timer to guide your session. I recommend starting with at least 10 minutes to give yourself enough time to get into it.
- If you’d like to, this is a good time to set an intention for your mirror meditation. What do you hope to get from the practice?
- Now, close your eyes and deliberately slow down your breath. Inhale deeply, hold your breath momentarily and exhale slowly. Do this for a few minutes and as your body begins to unwind, let your breathing follow its natural rhythm. Direct your attention to any areas of tension, visualizing the gradual release of tension with each breath.
- Open your eyes and fix your gaze on your reflection in the mirror, focusing on your eyes. Observe the cadence of your breath. Does it change as you engage with your mirrored image?
- As you gaze at your reflection, you can ask yourself what thoughts come to mind. Do you find it hard to hold your gaze because of any negative thoughts or self-criticism? What emotions are you feeling? Are you feeling happy, sad, anxious, or angry?
- Ask yourself what you see when you look at your reflection. Do you see your physical appearance, or do you see something deeper within yourself?
- If you find yourself clinging to certain emotions or fixating on critical thoughts, gently redirect your focus to your reflection. Allow your thoughts to flow, but try to use positive counterthoughts whenever your mindset becomes negative or critical.
- Maintain your gaze, and approach yourself with kindness and compassion. Let your thoughts wander freely, yet consistently anchor your attention to the act of observing with compassion as you explore your emotions.
- When you’re ready to end the meditation, slowly become aware of your surroundings. Notice the space around you, the sounds in the environment, and the sensations in your body.
- Allow your gaze to soften. Release any tension in your facial muscles and relax your shoulders. Then, gradually shift your focus from the mirror to other objects in the room. Allow your eyes to wander naturally, taking in the details of your surroundings.
- Take slow, deep breaths to ground yourself, gently move your body to release stiffness, and stretch if needed, perhaps expressing gratitude for the practice.
- Take a moment to reflect on your experience. Notice any thoughts, emotions, or insights that arose during the meditation. There’s no need to judge or analyze; simply observe. Perhaps record these reflections by journalling. about your experience.
- As you transition back into your daily activities, do so mindfully. Take the insights or calmness you’ve gained with you into the next moments of your day.
“The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are.”– Thomas Dreier
The way we perceive the world is a reflection of our own thoughts, beliefs, and actions – cultivate your mind wisely! 🙂
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