"Gaze lovingly at your reflection while you brush your teeth each morning." This was the first assignment I was given during my year-long yoga teacher training. I embarked on that training over a decade ago now, and those directions might have well been spoken in a foreign language when heard by my twenty-four year old self. I didn't so much like looking in a mirror back then, much less gazing lovingly. When I looked into a mirror, I often wrinkled my nose at my reflection. I saw flaws, projects, things to be fixed, things to be hidden. I did not gaze lovingly; I glared disapprovingly. I tried to do this assignment. Each morning I looked in the mirror, and as I tried to soften my eyes and my judgments, I just felt silly.
Flash forward ten years to a couple of days ago. I sat watching my thirteen month old play in front of a mirror. This is a common occurance, so I didn't think much of it until the kisses began. She pulled herself to standing and gave her reflection a big kiss and then over and over and over again, she gave her reflection kisses. After each kiss she would pull back and give herself one of her biggest, brightest smiles. She didn't just gaze lovingly; she loved emphatically and loudly, the way you would an old best friend you haven't seen for years.
This is how I have begun to relate to my reflection: I see an old, dear friend. When I look in the mirror now, my eyes do soften. I take in what I see, and I smile, "It's good to see you." I see the same wrinkles and freckles I did when I was twenty something, but now I would not change a thing. I truly love what is before me. I used to approach the mirror from my ego; now I am greeted by my soul.
Being a mother has softened me. Loving my children unconditionally has taught me to love myself unconditionally as well. When my children were babies, I loved looking them over to see my familiar parts in miniature. I loved to look at them and see my baby lips, my nose, my ears, my fingernails, my big toe. These same parts of me that I used to wish were somehow different or better, were now absolutely perfect, as I saw them in my children. In coming to love these parts in my children, I began to love them in myself as well.
So your homework tonight is to gaze lovingly at your reflection while you brush your teeth. See your reflection as an old friend, a friend who has been with you on this wild ride, through good times and bad. A good friend whom you have known since they were just a little babe. See them, and tell them, "It's so good to see you," and, if no one is looking, give them a big kiss!