Walking in our inner house of mirrors
By Carina Heimdal

sigrun speil

We make judgments about ourselves and our appearances. The dark circles under our eyes should be smaller, we should look more energetic, and our hair should be tidier.

So where do the judgments in our meditation come from?

Not from a bodily self-image, but from the inner self-image that influences our metathoughts during meditation. When the meditation sound keeps disappearing and we catch ourselves thinking about something else for long periods, this is easily reflected in our inner mirror. In this mirror, we see a lazy person meditating, someone who is not doing his or her job properly. What kind of a person meditates like this? Oh yes – a hopeless person. And worst of all: we see ourselves.

Carina and Elisabeth

No, it’s not a mirror image. It’s the author, Carina Heimdal (left) with her twin sister Elisabeth.

Metathoughts can play a central role in Acem Meditation. It is as if we see ourselves in a mirror. In this mirror, we see how we meditate, just like when we look at ourselves in the mirror every morning.

We are entirely convinced by what we see in the mirror during meditation, just like when we see ourselves in the mirror every morning and think that our stomachs are too big and our chests too small. We are blind to the fact that what we see is a subjective self-image, which determines the reflection we see in the mirror. We easily think that the mirror shows the absolute truth about how we meditate. We are not aware that the metathoughts are thoughts about what we do or think.

What we see in the mirror is often distorted compared to what really happens. Low self-esteem limits our perception of the world and of ourselves, and also our freedom to act. From a subjective point of view it tells us who we are – what we can and cannot do. We think we look at ourselves in a regular mirror, but in reality, the mirror is distorted. Not so surprising then that our noses look so big? Or maybe we are standing in front of a mirror that makes us appear big and fat – as in a house of mirrors. The mirror makes our faces look distorted. Or is the mirror actually a magnifying glass? You can easily get lost in your inner house of mirrors.

Kistefos 1

You don’t need a mirror for your image to be distorted. The sculpture “Energy-Matter-Space-Time” by Petroc Sesti, at the Kistefos Museum in Norway.

Low self
It is usually a low self-image that activates metathoughts during meditation. Many of us experience mostly critical metathoughts from our meditation. The mirror shows an unsuccessful meditator who meditates poorly. It may tell us that we are lazy, tense, boring, or that we are not present in what we are doing. Since we are convinced that the mirror shows us the truth, we start to change the way we repeat the sound, try to do things right, try to meditate correctly.

We all have our views of what kind of person we would like to be, what kind of body we would like to have, and how meditation should be; an ideal, a certain idea of what is right and wrong. The meditation mirror tells us a lot about ourselves.

Self-image is an important part of personality. It influences what we do in life, how we interpret our environment, and the choices we make. The mirror usually tells us that we do not match the ideal of how meditation – or our bodies – should be. Maybe we have always been told that we have a big nose? Or perhaps we have a feeling that we are not worthy of the love of others if we show who we really are? Maybe we are convinced that others will find us strange, and therefore we have to hide certain parts of ourselves?

In guidance groups, for example at summer retreats, we have the opportunity to describe the person we see in the mirror when we meditate. We may get to know more intimately the relationship we have to ourselves. What kind of a mirror are we looking into? And how does it influence us?

Copy editor: Ann Kunish
Photos: Ole Gjems-Onstad, Torbjørn Hobbel, Halvor Eifring