A research-based meditation by Tara Well, PhD called
in the New York Times
Break Free from Stress • Tame Your Inner Critic • Awaken Self-Compassion
Break Free from Stress
Tame Your Inner Critic
What Mirror Meditation Can Teach You
Tara Well, PhD presented her TEDx Talk in Ocala Florida on November 2nd to a sold out crowd. She tells her personal story of the importance of mirrors in her own life, and shares her amazing research findings. Learn how a simple mirror can shift self-criticism to self-compassion, help you better understand your emotions, and improve your face-to-face communication.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Mirror Meditation a form of therapy?
Mirror Meditation is a cognitive-behavioral technique. It is not substitute for individualized mental health therapy provided by a licensed mental health professional. I make no claim to cure, treat, diagnose, or otherwise provide mental or behavioral healthcare. I simply serve as a meditation instructor and offer suggestions to guide your process of greater self-awareness, and hold a positive intention for your psychological growth, health and happiness.
Does Mirror Meditation promote “selfie” narcissism?
Mirror Meditation does not increase narcissism. Our research finds it increases self-awareness by increasing your awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Mirror Meditation is a silent mindful meditation – so it does not involve positive affirmations and self-adoration exercises. Instead, it facilitates honesty and acceptance – and ultimately self-compassion. Mirror Meditation helps you see underneath your public self-image and discover your true self. You’ll learn to see all aspects of yourself – the positive, the negative, and all shades of grey. As you practice self-acceptance and authenticity, the need for validation and admiration from others can become less important. You’ll be more open and honest and genuinely curious about others — which is a less narcissistic, self-involved way of relating to others.
What if I don’t like looking at myself in the mirror?
Mirror meditation may be very beneficial for you. People usually avoid looking at themselves in the mirror because their image activates uncomfortable thoughts and feelings – either about their appearance or something else about themselves that they don’t like. Seeing your own face may evoke feelings of shame, sadness, fear, anger, or disgust. Avoiding mirrors may keep you from feeling these negative emotions, while looking directly at yourself in a mirror may initially intensify these feelings. So it makes sense that you’d want to avoid looking in the mirror – but the problem of self-criticism and its negative influence on your wellbeing remains. Mirror meditation can help you shift from self-criticism to self-compassion, if you are willing to take a look!
How is Mirror Meditation related to other forms of meditation?
Mirror meditation is based on the three principles of mindfulness meditation: attention in the present moment, open awareness, and kind intention toward oneself. Meditation is often done with eyes closed. Some traditional forms of meditation involve gazing at the fixed point, known as a Drishti. Having a focal point like a candle flame or even a spot on the wall can help focus your attention. Focusing on yourself is more complex and powerful. You’ll become more mindful of the thoughts and feelings evoked by seeing your own image – and able to work with them from this unique perspective.
Does Mirror Meditation involve saying positive affirmations in the mirror?
Mirror meditation is a silent mindful meditation. You sit with yourself in silence and experience whatever arises. Although saying positive affirmations like, “I love myself” and “I am beautiful” in the mirror can be helpful to temporarily change your state of mind, being silent as you gaze allows you to see yourself in an honest and deep way. As you build tolerance for being present with yourself without needing to do or say anything, you’ll develop more self-acceptance and self-compassion will naturally arise from your experience.
“I took part in a meditation practice pioneered by a colleague at Barnard, Tara Well, called “Mirror Meditation,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: You sit before a mirror with your face (and body) at rest, with the deceptively simple goal of ‘being in the present moment with open awareness and having a kind intention toward yourself.’ When I first embarked on this practice I feared it would be too — well, I believe the technical term is ‘woo-woo.’ But it was a revelation.”
– Jennifer Finney Boylan, Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University, New York Times op-ed columnist, and author of 15 books including the National Bestseller, She’s Not There
“It was a profound exercise in cultivating insight: I saw inside of myself in a way that I am not used to, and really felt the movement of my criticisms as they arose. The sharp awareness I developed was painful, but paradoxically liberating. If you can experiment with the idea of looking at yourself the way a stranger might look at you, you’ll at least find that those [criticisms] aren’t even there. You may even fall a little bit in love.”
– Charlotte Lieberman, journalist & New York Times op-ed writer