Sangha Reflections is a community column featuring stories written by sangha members about unique aspects of their personal practice.
The Mirrored Image
By Lask Grey Kindred
The mirror was the first spiritual thing I knew.
I remember being tiny and uncoordinated, sitting on my mother’s bathroom counter. Over the sink, there was a mirrored medicine cabinet that opened in three places. I liked to fold the doors out, close my face inside, and look at myself reflected in the endless hallway of mirrors and mirror-me’s. Not for fascination of Self, but for fascination of Not and Other Than and Elsewhere and In Between. I liked it because I always knew my face wasn’t all there was to see in the reflection, and because I did not look like Me in the mirror.
Mirrors are doorways, and they’ve always scared-but-enticed me. They’ve never shown my true face, so I’ve never trusted them, yet I always want to see how they reflect me.
Today, I am more pagan than anything else, though Zen and Hollow Bones has become the spiritual community I wouldn’t otherwise have as a solitary seeker. I married a Zen priest, and I work part time for a Zen organization, while I work full time for the universe and nature and myself. I am an eccentric and superstitious man. In my house, there is no reflective surface that has gone un-warded. (“Warding” being a pagan term for protecting against negative energy, malicious spirits, nefarious intentions from others, prying eyes, one’s own weakness or hubris, etc.) My Zen-priest-husband, Liaoran, laughs when I flick saltwater on the door of the toaster oven, and the side of the water filter, and the fish tank, and the light fixture globes, and– if I can see my face in it, it is not to be trusted. It has less to do with the demons in the In-Between, and more to do with that trickster who tells me lies with my own lips in the glass.
And it is to be gazed into.
And consulted with the questions of others.
And side-eyed with the questions of myself.
And toyed with late at night.
What is it about mirrors that Buddhists and Pagans agree upon?
Mirrors. Self. Other. Not-Other. Here, This, Now, Ever, All, Unfolding, Self fractaling upon Self, seen only through the reflections of an Other. This awareness is embodied, look. Look.
What is it that a pagan can agree on with his Christian parents?
“I am wonderfully and fearfully made.” (Psalm 139).
…and so is the face in the mirror, and the angle of your face I see there, and the shadow of the thing I dare not name in the night and throw salt over my shoulder to deter its stare. Wonderful, fearful, glorious— the mirror. Me. You. This, awareness.
Mirrors are tools. It behooves us to polish them so the colors stay bright. To keep them level, so the reflection is not distorted. And to keep them warded so our own fears do not speak too loudly when we look into the glass.
Or, as Rumi put it: “Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and scared. Do not open the door to the study and begin reading. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
Let the light hit your face and the glass. Look at yourself in the mirror. Gaze into the hallways of reflections upon reflections. See your mirrored image. Speak an affirmation of how beautiful you are, or throw salt in your own eyes– it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re looking.
Lask Grey Kindred is the Communications Director and Graphic Designer of Hollow Bones Zen, serving the sangha since 2020. He began his practice with Hollow Bones at Zen River Sangha in 2018.