“Go look in a mirror. Describe what you see. Give us the details.”
One normally doesn’t pay much attention to the reflection shown in the mirror.
At least I don’t. The mirror is a tool to help me groom myself. Nothing more.
Till I paid attention to this writing prompt.
The mirror tells a lot of stories.
The act of looking into the mirror tells even more stories.
Fifty Strands of Grey
A symbol of wisdom. A symbol of aging. I’ve been having them for the last decade or so.
Before I switched hairdressers, this was the routine conversation between me and my hairdresser in Chennai:
Hairdresser: Sir, you have grey hair.
Me: That is correct.
Hairdresser: Would you like to color it black?
Me: No, thank you.
Hairdresser: But you have grey hair!
Every single time.
Black hair gives the feeling of youth. Grey hair gives the feeling of aging. Is it, then, a worthwhile effort to color my hair?
“Yes” is certainly a reasonable answer.
I, however, am sticking to “No.”
Has It Been 20 Years Since I Joined College?
I was a freshman at the University of Maryland in the Fall of 2002.
Has it been 20 years already? Time has a way of sneaking past us. We seem to have all the time ahead of us. Before we know it, several years have passed by.
There are several ways to make the minutes longer.
- Practice mindfulness. This is a way to extract every last drop of juice out of the minute.
- Practice appreciation. This makes us look at the past with fond affection, as opposed to the normal response, “where have the years gone by?”
- Stop wasting time. Any number of reminders is woefully inadequate in this age of social media addiction and smartphone addiction. Pursuing meaningful activities is a great way to respect time.
The Mirror Gives Me Back What I Give Her
One day, I approach the mirror with a fresh and clean-shaven face, raring to take on the world.
On another day, I visit the mirror with droopy shoulders, disheveled hair, and a face filled with a beard.
The mirror gives me back what I feed it.
So does life — She feeds back what I give her. If I display enthusiasm, life gives me back enthusiasm.
Age Doesn’t Necessarily Translate to Wisdom
Getting older doesn’t automatically translate to becoming wiser.
Some of my young friends are wise beyond comprehension. Some older people maintain a staunch social distance from wisdom.
Age has the advantage of going through more life experiences. A 60-year-old has seen more of life than a 16-year-old.
True wisdom comes from reflection. From introspection. From making a conscious effort to grow and improve. Without this inner work, age is merely an indicator of the time spent on earth.
The Body is Ever Changing
Advaita Vedanta tells me the soul is changeless.
The body, however, is ever-changing. I recognize this fact intellectually. Duh. Do I really get it, however?
And more importantly, am I at peace with it?
It is impractical to expect to look like I’m twenty when I’m actually in my late thirties.
Growing old is the dharma (nature) of the body. Nobody is immune from the aging process.
Those who make peace with this fact go through life gracefully.
My Dad Gave Me an Unusual Reason to Respect Elders
As a child, I never stopped to listen to the wisdom nuggets my Dad gave me.(As an aside, every kid seems to have a built-in instruction set to ignore their parents’ words.)
There is one lesson that stayed with me. My Dad told me that the elderly must be respected for the sole reason that they go through problems of old age. Physical problems. Mental problems include loneliness, processing the pain of seeing their friends and peers pass away, etc.
We need not follow the words of elderly people. However, we must be warm with them and give them copious respect, my Dad told me. Reflections of greying make me look at my Dad’s words with redoubled respect.
Louise Hay’s Mirror Work
Author Louise Hay was famous for prescribing mirror work.
“I love you,” she would ask her readers to repeat in front of the mirror.
Am I comfortable with the way I look? If the answer is “no,” I am not practicing self-love, am I?
The more important reflection, as I see it, is to make sure I love myself. Of course, I must be open to changing myself.
But I should love myself all the time.
Exactly the way I am.
The mirror gave me the opportunity to reflect on several aspects of life.
- Time has a way of sneaking past us. Mindfulness, appreciation, and pursuing worthwhile activities help make the minute longer.
- The mirror gives back what we give her. So does life.
- Age doesn’t automatically translate to wisdom. Reflection and introspection are usually necessary to gain wisdom.
- The body is ever-changing — accepting this fact helps go through life gracefully.
- Respect elders. The young have no clue as to the problems the elderly face.
- I should love myself exactly the way I am and celebrate how I look.
Image Credit: Dmitry Mashkin from Unsplash