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through the looking glass


1. The throwing back by a body or surface of light, heat, or sound without absorbing it. Sending back, throwing back, casting back.

2. Serious thought or consideration. Thought, thinking, consideration.

Reflection travels two ways. It can project an image out to the world and also send serious thought inward. The idea got us wondering about the last time we looked in a mirror. Really looked. For many of us on a recent retreat, we realized it was never, really. So we each held a small mirror, set a timer for seven minutes (a lot longer than the familiar glimpse), and considered the question, “What do you see?”The chime startled us. It seemed like a minute had passed. As we each shared what we saw, we found kinship in our experiences. The common threads were remarkable.

Initially, we each felt anxious and curious and even awkward as we gazed at the somehow unfamiliar face staring back at us. We never really observe our own face for more than a moment at a time. Even then, it’s usually while brushing our teeth or glancing in the rear view mirror. So we catch sight of ourselves in passing, but never really stop to look. What do I see? As we kept looking, our imperfections first caught our attention. We focused on our flaws, wishing our skin had fewer age spots and appeared less blotchy, that our eyes were less puffy, our wrinkles not so deep.

But after a few minutes, we noticed a shift: We were—maybe for the first time ever—seeing how we felt. A new reflection. Our marked skin, tired eyes, and hard-won wrinkles revealed what lived below. We slowly became comfortable looking through the glass, and truly seeing, into our eyes to discover what we could learn. This is where the hard and honest and good things bubbled up.

We took in and reflected on our imperfect selves. What appeared as a twinkle before, now felt like sadness in our eyes. And we were okay with our sadness, because it was true. The dark circles under our eyes told us we are busier than we want. Our weather-worn skin showed our deep connection to the outdoors.

Seven minutes felt like a lifetime before we began. Afterwards, we realized we had only begun to see—and explore—the palpable truths. Curious what you might notice the next time you look in the mirror? After seven minutes, you might not even need the mirror to know.


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