There are more things to heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ~ William Shakespeare, Hamlet
This week we’re featuring a post from our friend, Karen Gordon. It’s pretty thought-provoking. It’s longer than our usual posts, but I think you’ll enjoy it. Karen’s a terrific writer. Here she is:
It happened spontaneously the first time, and I kept it to myself. The second, third, fourth (and so on), it happened with intention and focus. “So strange,” I thought. “And seemingly mystical.”
I began to call it my mirror meditation, because the first time that it happened, the spontaneous time, I was in my bathroom, looking into the mirror, greeting myself to the day. At first, well, it was me in the mirror. A mature Caucasian woman just entering her sixties. Very long and dark hair with one gray streak, about an inch in width, beginning at the left side and cascading down to the ends.
Then the reflection changed. Simply at first. My hair going from wavy to straight; the side part moving to the right; the hair length shortening and lengthening; the hair color going lighter, darker, fully gray, black as night; my face becoming fuller, thinner.
I was mesmerized that first time. Wondering if it was a one-time event, I experimented by setting up a full length mirror behind my meditation altar. I sat on my cushion, lit my incense, and looked into my eyes. Karen’s eyes. My gaze softened. It was me, but different. Older, younger, always an adult but sometimes reminiscent of my late teenage years, especially with that dark, dark hair.
It reminded me of the flip books I used to play with. With each quick flip of the page, a new image would appear based on the one that came before, usually creating a sense of motion. In the case of my mirror reflection, the images changed very quickly. Each was slightly different than the previous one, but the images didn’t move linearly; the faces didn’t age chronologically forward or backward. There was nothing consecutive about it.
Several days passed and the experience changed even more. Now it was no longer always me. Now, it was sometimes female, often male. Now, it was sometimes Caucasian, often Native American. The whole event slowed down. Now it was like I was calmly flipping through a large book of portraits. Each flip of the page, an entirely new face. If you would count one one thousand, two one thousand, with each count, a new face in my mirror looking back at me. Hundreds of them, as I sat in open-eye meditation.
I admit. This was immensely interesting to me and I was also a tiny bit freaked out. These images seemingly were of people I’d never met and had no recollection of having ever seen in books or movies or as conjured imaginings in dreams or day dreams. What was this? Who were they? Were they any somebodies at all? I knew I’d moved into a new realm of experience, but of what sort?
I went where I always go for answers and typed in multiple search terms:
- Mirror image other people
- I see people in my mirror
- Changing faces in my reflection
- Name for changing faces mirror meditation
As always, many results to sort through:
- The strange face in the mirror illusion revisited
- The multiple faces phenomenon-some investigative studies
- Spiritual reflections in haunted mirror
- 3rd eye mirror meditation
I read everything I could find on the subject. From metaphysical message boards to journal articles. Some of what I read seemed similar to my own experience. But most of the descriptions seemed utterly distant from my own.
Firstly, the set up. I had no set up. I had no requirements for this event to occur. No dim lighting needed. No candle placed just so. No photo overlays. No colored optics. No looking at one part of the mirror and not another.
Next, the experience itself. Mine seemed unique in the number of images I saw reflected back to me. And in the separateness of each image one from the other. No fuzzy lines morphing from one face to the next. These were distinct, unique images.
I read many accounts of distortions, both human and animal, of grotesque, horrifying, and haunting images. This was all foreign to my own experience.
Scrying, Catoptromancy, Psychomanteum, Mirror Gazing, Catoxtromancy: many names and purposes for seeing images other than oneself in a mirror. I had no specific purpose in mind. It happened. I kept it happening with my intention. (Or so it seemed.)
I felt a strong impulse to share my experience with someone or someones I could trust. And so I told my children, grown now, adults themselves with their own years of experience, some seemingly mystical, some mundane.
My daughter listened and framed my experience within her own logical and magical understandings of how life works. My son, also both magically and logically orientated, listened with interest, asked a few questions.
And that was that.
“Perfect, I’m not alone in this,” I thought. “If I spontaneously combust in deep meditation, at least my children will have some explanation as to what may have happened to their mother.”
After a few months, I decided to share the experience with a few other family members and longtime friends. These were people who knew me well and who I hoped would frame what they heard within their own understanding of me as a person who had never quite fit in with normal world views. I wasn’t too concerned that they might have a negative reaction. It was sharing that seemed important at the time. Having told them, I felt grounded and a little more stable in my mirror experience. There was something about bringing the seemingly mystical into the practical, mundane world. And several people now knew what was happening to me.
You know, just in case.
The man I’d been dating for several years was an earnest atheist, which led me to be hesitant sharing what I considered to be an experience somehow beyond space and time, and perhaps even spiritual. But, since I spent several hours with him each week, I thought he should know. He listened attentively, looked into my eyes, and then gently said, “Maybe you should get a brain scan.”
Uh . .
Mmm . . . No. My brain is just fine, thank you very much.
A couple years later a relative who was a medical doctor came to Oregon, and I drove to the horse ranch B&B where she was staying with her husband and large dogs. My beau was with me and when the conversation turned to things about the mind, I impulsively shared my experience with her.
“It sounds like a hallucination,” she said.
Umm. . . No. Well, I didn’t think it was, anyway.
I remembered something I’d read in Parallel Worlds: A Journey through Creation, Higher Dimensions, and the Future of the Cosmos by Michio Kaku, an American theoretical physicist.
“The quantum theory is based on the idea that there is a probability that all possible events, no matter how fantastic or silly, might occur.”
Fantastic, yep. At least to me. Fast forward to now, six years after it all began. The mirror meditation hasn’t changed much, but I’m much more calm and stable within the experience. The first days, weeks, months and even years I had so many questions. Today, I stand in front of a mirror, any mirror, no matter where I am. I open my heart. I open my mind. My lips turn slightly upward in a loving smile. The reflected image lovingly smiles back at me. I breathe and wait a few moments until the image begins to change.
Or I sit on my meditation cushion in broad daylight or at dark with a room light on or dimmed, with incense and candle or not, simply with the intention to let the mirror reveal to me whatever is there to be revealed. With no agenda other than that, the experience has simplified to one of communion.
What is happening and communion with what or whom? And when?
I’ve read several neurocognitive explanations and, frankly, they seem just one more Cartesian framed explanation for what I believe is actually a natural, if seemingly mystical, experience. And there we have the crux of it.
What is mystical experience anyway?
In the general consensus reality, the mystical is beyond logic, reason, and scientific evidence. But ever since I was a child I’ve questioned the accuracy of this general consensus reality that colors most every thought, conversation, question and philosophy that most of us drag along with us every second of every minute of every day.
What if there was another way? What if we’re looking at everything all wrong. What if today’s answers to all of our mundane and more explorative questions have been gained through the wrong lens?
Could we truly be “through the Looking Glass”?
Living without realizing that there is no such thing as a purely objective world?
Dreaming of our separateness when truly we are a living, breathing and integral part of the whole?
Not realizing that this is a participatory universe, not one that insists upon subject and object?
Quantum physics provides many answers to these speculations by offering an alternate framework for reality.
“In classical physics, the past is assumed to exist as a definite series of events, but according to quantum physics, the past, like the future, is indefinite and exists only as a spectrum of possibilities. Even the universe as a whole has no single past or history. So quantum physics implies a different reality than that of classical physics—even though the latter is consistent with our intuition and still serves us well when we design things such as buildings and bridges.” (Hawking & Mlodinow, Scientific American, October 2010)
There are as many interpretations for the “faces in the mirror” experience as there are experiencers and researchers. In the end, I’m left with my own perceptions and my own interpretation. What it feels like to me is that I’m silently communing with other parts of myself—me, Karen—as well as other “persons” from dream reality, from parallel reality, from multidimensional reality, from unknown reality.
If this sounds ridiculous and utterly unreasonable and you’re thinking, “maybe Karen should get a brain scan,” let’s let a multi-award winning physicist have a say:
“The questions with which Einstein attacked the quantum theory do have answers; but they are not the answers Einstein expected them to have. We now know that the moon is demonstrably not there when nobody looks.” (N. David Mermin, Quantum Mysteries for Anyone; The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 78, No. 7 [July 1981])
Uh . .
Mmm . . . Okay.
Let’s be honest here. I don’t know exactly what’s happening in my mirror meditation. But the pleasure I’ve discovered and the gratification I feel is in the fact that I no longer need to know.
“There was a time when the newspapers said that only twelve men understood the theory of relativity. I do not believe there ever was such a time … On the other hand, I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” (Richard Feynman, the late Nobel Laureate in physics)
From my earliest years, I’ve had the heart of a mystic.
Somehow I’ve always known that this life, seemingly so real, is a dream. I’ve known and I’ve also fallen out of direct awareness of that knowing. Often I’m “caught in the drama.” When I’m caught, I don’t know that I am. It’s upon “waking up” from the drama of so-called real life that I realize, “Oh, I was caught in the drama again.” Sometimes it’s a few minutes, or an hour, or a few weeks, or even a few years!
But once awakened from the drama, I again realize that I am both the dream and the dreamer, not at all unlike our normal experience of the awake and dreaming states where we are both the imaginer and the one or ones imagined.
Could what’s really real be so obvious that we’re missing it?
Though quantum physics itself is over 100 years old, its ideas and applications are becoming more and more available to mass consciousness via products, articles, lectures, books, movies, etc. Quantum theory not only gives me a scientific framework to latch onto for what I’ve always known intuitively, but it also makes me more comfortable discussing the ideas with others. Coming out of the closed in a certain respect. Not feeling so awkward expressing my personal ideas and experiences. No longer being shy about being me, whether I see me, Karen, reflected back in the mirror or “somebody” else.
“In the beginning there were only probabilities. The universe could only come into existence if someone observed it. It does not matter that the observers turned up several billion years later. The universe exists because we are aware of it.” (Martin Rees, Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics and Master of Trinity College at the University of Cambridge)
With the belief that life is more dreamlike (waves of potentiality) than substantive (having substance defined as matter)—and that on a relative and absolute level I’m both the dream and the dreamer—comes great responsibility for owning up to who I’ve been, who I am, and who I’m becoming. If it’s true that this is a participatory universe, then it’s of paramount importance that you and I wake up to a clear view of our own philosophies, thoughts, and action so that we can more easily see what effect we’re having on and within the universe.
I’m eager to continue my self-study to see how quantum science will offer explanations for some of the seemingly unexplainable personal experiences I’ve had and for the who, what, where, when, and why of this thing called life.
If you also have the heart of a mystic, I’d love to hear about your own experiences, your own hesitation or boldness expressing yourself, and what you think about taking complete responsibility for your own dreamed up and very personal footprint of existence.
Copyright © 2018 by Karen Gordon
Karen J. Gordon lives in the beautiful Willamette Valley of Western Oregon. She wears many hats both personal and professional, including mother, grandmother, freelance writer and copy editor, and Reiki healing teacher and practitioner. You can reach her at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to comment on this post or for more information about the services she offers.