10 minute read
The spiritual, and I would say, the essential human activity of reflection is an important part of our lives. For one, there is the almost inescapable task of reflecting on the consequences of choices and actions. This ranges anywhere from small scale to large scale – from self deceit, all the way to global warming. Secondly, there is also the more heartfelt and the more intimate living dynamic process of being a reflection.
Since nothing is ever truly hidden, and everything is revealed when it comes to the light- the shape of our personal images, the content of our characters, the whole of our interior and exterior lives- we can easily comprehend that the essentials of our lives become accurately reflected in all that we think, feel, and do.
Because of its theological and psycho-dynamic complexities, the theme of reflection must be looked at as comprised of a few component parts; reflection, mirroring, & transparency.
The Art of Reflection
I say art because there are creative techniques one can learn when we choose to enter into a more formal reflection. There are intuitive, religious and psychological constructs for reflection. We might use journals and dream logs, along with directed exercises and dialogues with mentors, therapists and close friends.
The art of reflection, like the music of the soul, reveals the essential human need- the need to reflect or look back on one’s life, priorities and loyalties. The quality of our participation in life is an emotional and sensitizing process.
Reflection is primarily a passive activity that usually involves us looking back and evaluating or assessing our past actions and feelings. A common theme is the act of delving into the emotional and situational past to look for clues and hidden meanings in our previous behaviors that might influence or reveal current insights. Much of psychotherapy and spiritual direction involves us earnestly in this work.
However, many of us practice reflection informally whenever we come to a time in our year or in our lives. When we reminisce or look back on the times, events, and experiences that have gone by and we wonder silently or out loud…. to ourselves or with others… these times of reflection often result from personal and significant milestones, such as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, retirements, and death. However, reflection can be generated randomly by a stray but poignant song, a random movie scene, or by those events that do not seem so compelling, yet are still influential. This may include the start of a school or church year, or any time we are embarking on endings and beginnings.
Often, we ask ourselves about the twists and turns, the challenges and the choices, the roads taken and left untrod, and how they might have made a difference in our lives. The famous depth psychologist, Carl Jung, once stated that the most meaningful incidents in our lives and “the right way to wholeness are made up of fateful detours and wrong turnings.” In other words, what we wound up doing on our way to somewhere else.
The next part in the theme of reflection involves us more ethically and more directly. It is the process of mirroring, which is rarely, if ever, passive. The act of mirroring usually engages us in a more instant insight or feedback because we receive information about ourselves and about our actions and choices quickly.
Mirroring is not something we ponder, for it provides us the immediate capacity to see the effects of our behavior and how it impacts others. It seems children are adults’ more sharply focused mirrors. Our children often imitate or reflect some of our least flattering and most revealing qualities or traits!
Mirroring states rather succinctly that what you see is what you get, or more directly, what you do is reflected back to you! We are earnestly advised by ethical and religious teachers such as Jesus, Buddha, and Gandhi to personally become the change we wish to see in our world; that is, to be courageous and soulful enough to realize that whatever we do will have an impact on our world. Further, if we truly wish to change some aspect of the world we live in, or some part of our personal or relational life, we will have to mirror that change. We must embody and directly reflect those changes in our thoughts and actions.
I believe that all true change starts in our personal minds and hearts, and is then mirrored out into the world. You and I need to mirror back to one another the values we each wish to have, feelings we would like to share, and the wisdom, justice, and compassion we would like to generate and spread among others.
We have to consciously mirror the experiences we want, or need, to have reinforced in our culture. That which we want to see must be integrated and repeated in our daily routines. When there is some injustice or imbalance in the world or in my life, I ask myself how I might have contributed to it. And more importantly, once identified, how is that I can reflect, redirect, and correct my life so that I can mirror the solutions and the outlooks that heal, rectify, forgive, transform, and uplift?
The last segment of the process of reflection is the most intimate and vulnerable one; the capacity to soulfully shine or to be a personal transparency. It is the ability to see and the willingness to be seen clearly – to disclose and to be truly seen at the core of our being is the ideal quality of transparency. This is not to expose, as if others should act as detectives looking for damning evidence or criminal clues. Nor is it being shallow or easily “seen through.”
Instead, the quality of being a transparency is to aspire to be free of our ego defenses, our so-called best strategies, game playing, bluffing, posturing, or any other such ego mechanisms. Transparency is an ideal that willingly admits we are all works in process. It affirms and asserts there is an inner conscience, a higher call, a real voice, or an ethical and spiritual imperative that speaks to us to reach for a life beyond our fears and perceived limitations – beyond the media driven definitions of how our lives should be and the worldly expectations we have all around us.
For me, being a transparency is one of the end goals of the spiritual life – to live as a transparency for wisdom and compassion that others can clearly see. To act as a clear window, a human channel, or as a mind, body, and spiritual expression of ideas, virtues, and principles.
Transparency asks us to live as authentically as we can; to be willing to work to create a world without pretense, to engage in relationships without artifice, and to build and sustain a community without denials. It is to be one’s true self along with others who are also striving to find and proclaim their authentic being. Then, together we consciously and willingly choose to support and care for one another, our children, our whole selves and spiritual lives.
Along my spiritual journey over the past 30 years, I spent some time among the Christian Scientists. While it was an important stop along my way, it was too dogmatic and restrictive for me. Yet, it did leave me with certain valuable and lasting insights. As a regular part of their worship, they include an expanded interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer, that adds to the text some clarifying and inspirational remarks. …. When the line in the Lord’s Prayer is given, “Thy Kingdom come, on Earth as it is in Heaven,” the Christian Science commentary is “And love is reflected in love.”
And love is reflected in love…. May we, as individuals learn to shine forth, come to understand the power of reflection and the mirroring of the good in one another, and may our communities become a clear reflection of the love we feel for each other.
Amen. So Be It. Blessed Be.
Peter Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
Blog created and edited by Alyssia Valentin at Universoul Creatives