Throughout my childhood and into my teens and 20s, I was incredibly fortunate to travel overseas regularly with my family. My parents were not ostentatious folks, nor had they a deep yearning for expensive material objects; however, they gladly used their money to give their children the opportunity to explore other cultures. As the youngest of three, my “foreign” travels started at the age of 5; as my brain formed, it was imbued yearly with the voices and visions, smells and tastes of Europe, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and the Caribbean.
So many of my memories from those trips blend in with the images captured by my father, a wonderful photographer. Those were the days of Kodachrome and slides, of projected shows for friends after the photos had been developed and returned; Dad’s arsenal of cameras, lenses, and light meters formed the nucleus of his packing list. One memory, however, that could not have been photographed was a mix of mirror memories.
From a trip to Paris, I recall standing in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, sensing my first inklings of infinity; conflated with that memory is a vaguely off-putting feeling from my journey through a mirrored maze in Luxembourg Gardens. These partnered recollections create an emotional dissonance—the infiltration of awe from the mirrors in the Grand Hall has become intertwined with the feeling of nervous confinement that arose in the maze. The Hall of Mirrors made me feel “floaty,” drifting effortlessly above the scene; the maze, however, left me with an actual bump on the head from an “opening” that turned out to be a solid wall of glass.
I write about these memories today, because the confounding dichotomy of my previous two posts reminds me of the disparate, yet now linked feelings elicited by the two mirror experiences. First, I explored the idea that what we view as “reality” is but illusion; the very next day, I delivered a set of healing suggestions for a sick body. How does one accommodate the concept of illusion when all of the body’s sense and systems are in acutely felt distress? What could be more “real” than body aches and a wrenching cough?
Just as the distinct mirror memories have flowed into an amorphous whole of physical and emotional feelings, illusion and “reality” must each be acknowledged for their discrete qualities, as well as for their inevitable interplay. “Reality” regularly delivers “bumps,” just like the one to my 7-year-old head in the maze; and the illusory nature of Life sends one aloft, outside the body, beyond the brain. As humans in a material setting, our senses attach us to and help us through the earthly realm; however, they also distract us from the subtle realms that are undetectable by the five basic sensations.
This need to inhabit—and abide—two seemingly oppositional states of being forms the task of humans, and founds the spiritual forays of saints and sages of all religions. Life really is like that mirrored maze: What appears before us is not reality, yet it must be navigated. If we release ourselves from reliance on sensation and expectation, the way through reveals itself. To regard the illusion of Life with soft, deep awe can allow one to better accept the felt “realities” that we each must endure.
Practices such as kundalini yoga, with its focus on subtle bodies of energy, can ease the potentially jarring dynamic between illusion and perceived reality. Other esoteric and ancient pursuits and disciplines that align with the cosmos and Nature—astrology, crystal healing, qigong, tai chi, etc.—also help to create a more nuanced and thorough picture of Life and existence. The underlying principles of such practices gently weave themselves in and around the seemingly more accessible (and thus acceptable) ideas to which we are accustomed; slowly, what once seemed foreign holds the central position, and the illusion of Life slides in as Reality.
Next time: Technology and Suffering: The Deepening of Duality