Shining a light on mirroring

MirroringShortly after high school, I moved from Long Island, where I had grown up, to a New Jersey suburb. Without realizing it, I adopted the accent and mannerisms prevalent in my new area. When I went back to my home town for a visit, however, I noticed that I almost immediately reverted to “Long Island English” and “talking with my hands.” Why did that happen, and why is it important?

Mirroring

Much later, when I was developing my skills as a coach, I learned the term “mirroring.” Mirroring is the behavior in which one person subconsciously imitates the gestures, speech pattern, or attitude of another. (Thank you, Wikipedia.) We begin to mirror as infants. Psychologists believe it is through mirroring that children develop empathy and, in being mirrored by their parents, a sense of validation and belonging which helps them establish a sense of self.

As adults, we continue to subconsciously mirror others, particularly in social settings where we desire to fit in. It is a signal to the others that you are like them and agree with what they are saying or doing. It can be very subtle, such briefly mimicking a gesture, or as bold as repeating a phrase louder and with more gusto. Others then mirror you and you think, “Yes! These are my people!”

As a coach, I learned to use mirroring to build rapport and trust with clients. Successful salespeople, negotiators and politicians are masters at mirroring. They will have you thinking they totally get you, so whatever they are selling must be what you need.

Avoiding manipulative salespeople is only one reason I think it is important to understand mirroring. The value of that understanding grows as we become more mentally and emotionally mature. It is then we begin to develop an expanded or different sense of self that is less dependent on being part of a group.

Remember, though, that mirroring is deeply engrained in your subconscious, as is the desire to belong. What happens when, with your new sense of self, you walk into your high school reunion and the peers who used to mirror you are saying the same things and behaving the same way they always did? Or at a family dinner when those who were instrumental in creating your original sense of self are no longer mimicking your gestures and, instead of repeating your words back to you, are disagreeing with them?

As much as we would like to believe we can stand on our own, most of us aren’t comfortable being outsiders. The security of belonging is a basic energy of the Root Chakra. When we don’t get those validating signals, it shakes the foundation on which our individual sense of self is built.

How can we each maintain and continue to develop our individual sense of self and still have a sense of belonging and validation? Find a circle.

The power of circle

It is, of course, easiest to find some people who think and act like you do to spend time with, because they will mirror you. But I think the real opportunity in an artfully facilitated circle is to be able to practice sharing your truth, to be heard and held, and have it not matter if anyone agrees with you. Circle can set up a sense of belonging and validation without mirroring.

Circle also gives us practice in listening deeply without taking on other people’s stuff, or even judging it. Especially for an introvert, like me, being able to just sit and listen without the social pressures of needing to interact in the “right” way (i.e. mirroring), or even to respond beyond “I hear you,” creates a sphere of safety. That is powerful validation of both parties’ self-worth, as well as a useful skill for your next family get-together.

I hope that your new awareness of mirroring will shed light on those times when you feel your sense of self is challenged. Perhaps you will be inspired to seek out ways to build a strong sense of self and belonging without needing subconscious validation from mirroring. I hope you will find your circle.

What do you think? Have you noticed yourself mirroring others, or looking for others who will mirror you? How do you feel when they don’t? I’d love it if you would share your insights, so we can all grow together.

Inspiration to Run with the Wolves

One of my Goddess Spirit Circle sisters is reading Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ book, Women Who Run With the Wolves, and shared a reading from it when we met last month. I remember reading the book many years ago (Amazon.com remembers I bought a copy in 1998!) and being wowed by the powerful feminine archetypes. Ready to be inspired again, I just ordered another copy. And when I was putting together graphics for my social media posts this week, I added some quotes from Dr. Estés. Stand up and howl, sisters!

CPE Stretch

CPE Wherever

CPE Woods

CPE Defiant

Do you have a favorite quote from Clarissa Pinkola Estés? Share it with me in the comments!

Lughnasadh without bread: 5 ways to celebrate the first harvest for the gluten intolerant

lughnasadh_corn1

Simple wheat decoration for Lughnasadh.

Lughnasadh (also known as Lammas) is an old Celtic festival marking the start of the harvest season, particularly the harvest of grain. Traditional Lughnasadh celebrations include lots of bread and beer, neither of which is part of the gluten-free and limited grain diet which is currently helping my gut to heal. Does this mean I cannot participate in celebrating the abundance of the season?

Of course not. I’m not missing out on the fun of the first harvest.

If you can’t partake in bread and beer, here are five things you can do to celebrate Lughnasadh:

  1. Light a candle. Even better to grab a tub, fill it with water, and float some candles among red, orange and yellow flowers. The candle flame honors the sun’s strength during these last long summer days.
  2. Feast on berries. Berries are abundant this time of year, especially raspberries and blackberries. Try a berry cobbler made with almond meal flour instead of grains. There’s a great recipe here.
  3. Decorate with corn and grain. As long as it’s safe for you to touch wheat (I know some folks with Celiac who can’t), you can make a number of Lughnasadh decorations from wheat stalks or dried corn. Some options are wreaths of corn, wheat or grapevines, corn husk chains (made just like paper chains) and corn dollies, which are – this is  interesting given their name – traditionally made from wheat stalks. Look here for a nice corn dolly tutorial.
  4. Make herb smudge sticks. If your herb garden looks like mine, it’s overflowing. I can’t grow white sage in the North Country, but there are a number of other herbs and flowers which smell wonderful when burned. The “You Grow Girl” blog has a list and instructions on making your own smudge sticks.
  5. Start working on Yule crafts. Lughnasadh honors Lugh, the Celtic god of artisans, so it’s a great time to begin a creative project. Why not get going on those gifts you’ve sworn to make this year? December will be here before you know it.

Breathe in Moonlight

Waxing Crescent Moon (NASA, International Spac...

Waxing Crescent Moon (NASA, International Space Station, 02/28/09) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)

Since we began having new moon circles at the True North Yoga studio, I’ve been reconnecting to the lunar cycle. I’ve always noticed the moon in the sky, when it’s visible, but I went through a period of not noticing mindfully. Over the past couple of years I’d forgotten how the moon speaks to my spirit and I’m glad to feel it’s pull again.

During the last full moon I was guiding a yoga class into deeper breathing when I was struck by how the moon’s cycle mirrors the cycle of the breath.

Try this:

Sit comfortably and lengthen your spine. Breathe in and out through your nose. Make each breath a bit deeper, a bit longer, until you are using all of your lungs.

Notice your inhale. Notice how the lungs fill slowly, taking in more and more air until they are full. The inhale is like the waxing moon, growing from a sliver in the sky to an orb.

Pause at the top of your inhale, holding your breath in gently. This pause, with your lungs at their full capacity, is like the full moon hanging in the sky for a night. Savor it’s power and sweetness as your body takes in oxygen.

Slowly exhale, noticing the emptying of your lungs. The exhale is like the waning moon, gradually releasing all of it’s energy and light as it shrinks to a crescent.

For a brief moment, pause at the bottom of your exhale. Notice the emptiness, like the lack of light in the night sky during the new moon. Be aware that the emptiness is ready to be refilled, and with an inhale begin the cycle again.

At our new moon circles we revel in the emptiness, for the moonless night signifies a readiness to begin. It is the time of potential unmanifest. When the moon is new on March 11, pause for a brief moment and invite in all that you are ready to create in your life.

And when the moon is full, breathe in moonlight and savor the sweetness of your creative power.

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