When I meet people at parties and they ask me what I do, I tell them “I’m a mirror-gazing expert”. If they don’t immediately turn away, I explain a little more: “Mirror Meditation is a daily practice that involves gazing at your reflection in the mirror for 10 minutes a day with absolutely no agenda”. I tell them about the research I conducted, which shows that it reduces stress and increases self-compassion. Occasionally after my elevator speech, the person looks at me with a playful smile and asks, “Can I do it naked?” My answer is always “Why not?”
The thought of looking at oneself naked fills people with either enthusiasm or dread. The enthusiastic ones usually have features that approximate the culture’s idea of what is sexually appealing. They may have been naturally endowed with these, or they may have put time and energy into creating this image – with make-up, tattoos, body shaping exercises, or plastic surgery. It can feel very satisfying to gaze at their reflection – as long as they are having a good hair day!
Those that dread looking themselves naked in the mirror may have totally succumbed to the cultural standard of Victoria’s Secret and GQ models. Consider that, unless you live in a nudist colony, your exposure to naked people that accurately represent all human shapes and sizes is somewhat skewed – that is, limited to your sexual partners and models in the media. It’s no wonder the majority of people dread looking at themselves in the mirror naked. Most of us simply can’t live up to the images we see everywhere.
With all this concern and focus on perfect, provocative images, it is not surprising that sex is often called a performance. If you are in the habit of having sexual experiences where the majority of attention is on how you look, you won’t be emotionally available for your partner. When we take an observer’s perspective and hold our stomachs in (so we don’t look fat to another person), it takes our attention out of the present moment. Often, we are not available to connect emotionally with our partners, nor are we aware of our feelings at the moment. It’s no wonder that sexual experiences between consenting adults can be fraught with anxiety and disconnection.
It can be liberating to give yourself permission to look at your body for ten minutes without the commentary – and without having to worry about the judgments or reactions of others. A regular Mirror Meditation can become a valuable tool for identifying, understanding, and compassionately accepting the ways in which we have been socialized to conceal or distort our sexuality. Through Mirror Meditation, you can become aware of discrepancies between the way you feel sexually on the inside, and what you are showing on the outside. You may discover more about your true feelings and have more to share with your partner.