It’s like this. You walk to the mirror feeling like yourself, your True Self, from the inside. Not 18, though maybe 18 if certain music is playing or certain memories woke up with you. But you, smiling you. You feel life moving in you.

Susan Lebel Young, a retired psychotherapist and mindfulness teacher, is the author of three books. Her latest is “Grandkids as Gurus: Lessons for Grownups.” Learn more at susanlebelyoung.com or email [email protected]

You stare in the mirror and your view of yourself flips. Your eyes look dull, don’t have the spark your heart felt moments ago. Your skin sags. When did that happen? And when did the wrinkles start? Wrinkles crinkle like your mom’s at your age. But you feel younger at this number than she looked at the same biological number.

You take in your image. You hardly recognize yourself because on the inside you feel younger than you look on the outside. And you know, at least you believe, that people see what you see. The sags. The bags. The creases around the eyes. The wiry white hairs here, there and everywhere. And you know, at least you believe, that this old face represents to others your real essence. You wonder, “Who am I now?”

Do you do this? My good pal says, “Doesn’t everyone?” Another friend says, “Don’t we all?” Everyone does this, right?

Recently I received a request to submit a picture of myself for display at … well, it doesn’t matter. Display? Uh-oh. I said, “No. No, no. I avoid pictures or I get in the back or I hide behind my grown children who have ‘grown’ 30 years less than me.”

The answer came back: “We need a picture.”

I searched. No, not that one. Ew, get rid of this one.

I found one I liked. Oops, taken 20 years ago. Can’t use that.

Here we get caught in forgetting. I use “we,” because “doesn’t everyone” and “don’t we all?” We forget that behind outward appearances, our real complexion lives in us as what the ancient teachers called “the beauty of our own true nature.” True nature: that which is whole, complete and total.

Sometimes, when we forget our greater reality, we need a kinder reflecting mirror, a person to reflect to us a more expansive truth than “I hate my hair.” Loved ones point out what they love about us: our smile, the way we play, how quickly we forgive. And we thank them for closing the doors at night, for paying the bills, for picking out just the right birthday card, for knowing we love whoopie pies.

To further help us see more inside-out and beyond our blind spots in the mirror, we could repeat the ancient mantra, “May I remember the beauty of my own true nature.”

Over and over, we could practice. We could come to trust our own true nature and see our own inner beauty. We could then send that wish outward to the larger world: “May you remember the beauty of your own true nature.”

Then: “May I, may we, remember the beauty of YOUR true nature.”

Imagine.

What if we open hearts and minds wide to those we have shut out: Black people, Indigenous people, people of color, Asians, LGBTQ folk, the disabled, the poor, the “different other.” What would happen in the world if we could, all of us, acknowledge not only our own inner beauty (regardless of what we see in the small bathroom frame), but also what sparkles and shines behind the physical – ours and everyone else’s essential worth?

I wonder about the creative power of taking a deep breath at the mirror so we can live with ourselves and others with more flattering reflections.

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