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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.

Sacred Spirals and Breathwork

“…no circle is ever closed. We walk ever in spirals.”
~ R. Scott Bakker

Experiencethe spiralsin yourbreathDo you feel like you’ve been here before? We see time as linear and circles in the patterns of nature. And so spring comes around again. Or does it?

During the past two moon cycles I’ve been quiet. Introspective. I’ve become aware of many patterns repeating in my being-ness. I’m seeing challenges that I’ve dealt with before, unresolved issues, and even childhood activities resurfacing. It’s frustrating. Why do I have to deal with this stuff again?

Then, a few weeks ago, I began seeing spirals everywhere and I became aware that I am not walking a straight line, or in a circle, but dancing through the labyrinth of existence. Spring has come around again, but it is not the same spring, and I am not the same person. I’m meeting familiar challenges with more experience and insight. And I am exploring new-again activities not as a child but with a child-like mind.

When I recognized and appreciated the sacredness of the spiral path I am walking, I opened to wonder and beauty and an order within the chaos of living. I see that each time a pattern reoccurs I am being offered an opportunity to apply new awareness, new tools and new skills to move through it with more grace.

You may, too, find yourself in a familiar place as you walk your own spiral path. What comes up for you again and again? And how do you respond? Notice if frustration, defeatism or despair arise. Then see if you can breathe into the sacredness and acknowledge who you are today. What more can you bring to the challenge? Maybe you are ready to release the pattern, but maybe you will spiral around again to face it as the you with even more experience.

There are a number of ways to connect with the spiral shape through breath work. I find spiral breathing both calming and centering. The simplest way to experience the spiral breath is to breath in up the back body, and breath out down the front body. Try it now. See, sense or feel the breath traveling up your spine as you inhale. Feel it flow down through your chest and belly as you exhale. As the breath deepens, you might sense it spiraling out until the breath is circling into the space behind and in front of you.

You can also spiral the breath in the coronal, or frontal, plane. which helps to bring awareness and balance to the breath and the mind while you explore the spirals. Take a breath in through your right nostril and draw the breath up your right side and into the top of your chest. Then exhale through the same right nostril and send the breath down the left side. Repeat a few times with the right nostril, then switch to the left. Inhale up the left side and exhale down the right. Practice through the left nostril a few times. Then try breathing through both nostrils while spiraling the breath. You will have two opposing spirals circling at the same time. Practice the two nostrils together a few times until you can feel both.

Connect with Fire: Candle Gazing Meditation

English: A candle flame.

A candle flame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honor of the summer solstice, we rebuilt and improved our backyard fire pit, then lit a big bonfire to honor the sun at its peak. Gazing into the fire, watching the flames dance and jump, reminded me of this simple candle-gazing meditation, which can be done anywhere you can safely stand a candle holder.

Find a place where you can sit undisturbed for a few minutes, either on a cushion or blanket on the floor or in a sturdy chair with your feet on the floor. Using a table or other props (yoga blocks or a stack of hardcover books work nicely) position a lit taper or pillar candle in a holder so the flame will be at eye level. You’ll want to use a holder which will support the base of the candle and catch any dripping wax, but which won’t block your view of the flame.

Find a comfortable seated position and close your eyes for a few moments. Bring your awareness to your breath. Breathe through your nose and lengthen your breath. Notice your thoughts, then let them float away. Notice when you feel centered and present to the flow of your breath.

Gently open your eyes and gaze at the candle flame. Focus your awareness fully on the flame, letting other thoughts drop away. If your attention wavers, bring it back without judgment. Begin to notice all the qualities of the candle flame. Notice the colors. Notice the movement. Become fully absorbed in watching the flame. Blink whenever it is necessary.

With your awareness steady on the flame, notice the thoughts flickering in your mind. Acknowledge any thoughts or feelings that arise, then let them go as you bring your attention back to the flame. Sit with the flame for five minutes, or as long as you are comfortable. Enjoy your connection to the flame.

When your meditation is complete, blink a couple of times, then close your eyes and notice your breath. Take four or five slow, deep breaths, then allow your awareness to return to the room. Open your eyes and return to your day. Be sure to blow out your candle!

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