The Power of Reflection
“Since everything is a reflection of our minds, everything can be changed by our minds”
- Gautama Buddha
The Universe can be described to contain everything in existence. A physics teacher once told us that if there is a brick wall at the edge of the Universe; then whatever lies outside the wall is also the Universe. The Universe is infinite in nature. This means that there is infinite information and infinite potential all around us.
The human mind is only capable of noticing or becoming conscious of, a limited number of situations at any one time. We cannot possibly hope to notice everything in existence.
What, then, leads us to unconsciously choose to notice certain aspects of situations over others?
When we attend an event with a friend, on sharing our memories afterwards, it can seem as if we had each witnessed something entirely different. Each individual perspective is unique.
This is because we all have a unique and individual model of the world. It is a framework through which every event is filtered. A personal lens through which all our experiences are seen. This model of the world is a system of beliefs which arise from our individual conditioning and experiences. It also includes a strong sense of Self.
When something happens to us, we unconsciously adapt our memory of it to make it fit the model. This is why we often find ourselves at odds with others. Our ‘truth’ does not match theirs.
It is out of this personal understanding of the world that our unconscious responses to all situations arise. We might be upset by the behaviour of another. We might find certain situations intolerable. We might experience extreme fear in some situations and not in others. All of our responses are influenced by our individual belief system and world view.
In addition to this, we are born hard-wired with a drive to survive. As infants, we are helpless. Abandonment equals death and so, throughout our lives, we seek the opposite of it in the form of attention and acceptance. Fear of rejection lies at the heart of the need to be accepted into our ‘tribe.’
We have learned which parts of us are deemed to be ‘acceptable’ within our tribe and we have modified the Self that we show to the world accordingly in order to stay safe.
Contradicting this ‘learning’ feels uncomfortable because the psyche sees it as perilous.
So, what leads us to unconsciously choose to notice certain aspects of the Universe?
When something is perceived by the psyche to threaten our survival, it will enter our awareness.
When we are provoked into either pleasant or unpleasant emotion by something external, we relate it to Self. We are looking for meaning in our experiences to apply to our internal processing.
In this way, we effectively see aspects of the Universe that reflect aspects of the Self.
We see those things that are relevant to what is going on within our own psyche.
The qualities that we like and appreciate in others are those that we appreciate in ourselves. This evokes pleasant feelings of safety.
Likewise, we cringe back in revulsion when we see characteristics in others that have so threatened our place within our community that they have long been buried in our Shadow Self. Love Your Shadow (resilientpractice.co.uk)
In this way the Universe can be seen as behaving like a mirror, providing pointers as to where we can work on Self to become more resilient.
Set the intention to pay more attention to those things that enter your awareness.
Employ the art of reflection by experimenting with an Event Journal:
After a significant event such as a meeting or social gathering, set aside a few minutes to note down what parts of the event you particularly remember.
For example: did you give a presentation and on receiving feedback, only focus on the negative comments?
Note down what your thoughts are about those parts of the event. For example: I was rubbish. I forgot my lines. People think I’m incompetent. I looked nervous. My boss was really off with me. My boss doesn’t like me. I’m not cut out for this.
What meaning are you giving to them by doing this?
Use full sentences to describe exactly what you are telling yourself about what happened. Perhaps you are assuming how someone else was feeling, based on their behaviour. Perhaps you are surmising that their emotions are about you. Maybe you are deciding what they think of you.
How does recalling those parts of the event feel in terms of emotion? Use single words to describe your feelings.
Where do you feel them in your body? Tight chest or throat? Churning stomach? Hot? Prickling skin?
To what extent do you feel it? How much of you does it consume?
Now press pause:
Take a moment to offer up some gratitude for all this information.
To have collected this knowledge is to have gifted yourself with valuable information about Self.
These are the chinks in your armour. Your kryptonite! Knowledge of them is like gold!
Whether the thoughts and emotions you record are pleasant or unpleasant, they are reflecting some part of they psyche that is relevant in some way to your safety within the outside world.
What next? - You do not need to take any action. Radically increasing your awareness of Self is the first step towards enlightenment. You are wise though to acknowledge what you have learned- and more resilient if you are grateful for it.
As you move forwards you may wish to examine the information that you collect and introduce some choice.
Those thoughts – were they truth? Or were they the truth according to your model of the world?
What do those thoughts say about your core beliefs about Self? Not good enough?
You can learn more about challenging distorted thinking here: How to Challenge Distorted Thinking (resilientpractice.co.uk)
Did you record some uncomfortable emotions in the form of body sensations? These are cause by chemical body changes as a result of those thoughts. These changes can be downregulated by any of the breathing exercises on our website.
Have some fun with it.
Keep it light and curious and above all be kind to yourself!
For more insights and a host of tools and techniques for exploring the Self and improving your
human experience see our book: