Polishing the Mirror
In Love’s Alchemy, Poems from the Sufi Tradition, a mystic writes:
The first step in love
is losing your head.
After the petty ego,
you then give up your life
and bear the calamity.
With this behind you, proceed:
Polish the ego’s rust
from the mirror
of your self.
The first step… is losing your head. In meditation we do our best to enter a space of silence where the continuous noise in our head ceases and all the petty concerns of the self are kept at bay. During the day we strive to keep constant vigilance over our minds while doing simran. Meditation, vigilance and simran lead to the silencing of the domineering automatic machine of the mind that sustains our ego.
The saints describe the ego as an illness, a serious affliction that has created the long-enforced notion that there is an “I”, a self that exists apart from the Lord. The idea of “me” and “mine” is based on a false concept. In truth, the Lord sustains our every breath and everything belongs to him, including our souls.
In Quest for Light Maharaj Charan Singh writes:
The very ego that we want to crush is the only barrier between us and the Lord. The moment you lose your identity and merge yourself into him, he appears before you. Ego is our only enemy, which attaches us to this world, and the whole struggle is to eliminate it from within ourselves.
After the petty ego, you then give up your life… Once we have conquered the mind that has its home in Trikuti, we are able to know the will of the Lord. At that stage we willingly give our lives to him, knowing him to be in charge and accepting everything in life with equanimity.
… you then give up your life and bear the calamity. Giving up our life is surrendering to the One who knows what is best for us – better than we know ourselves. It is relinquishing the illusion of control over our life and accepting events as they unfold.
Baba Ji has told us we must learn to let go. He said the hardest thing for us is to let go. He asked: What is so difficult? Someone is willing to take over all our burdens, and we refuse to let him. It’s like the person on the train with a suitcase on his head. Everyone tells him to put it down and he says, “No, it’s mine!”
When we trust in God enough to let go of our imagined control over life, we begin to polish the ego’s rust from the mirror of our self. The saints tell us that human beings are made in the image of God. We are of the same essence. Our souls reflect the same attributes as their Maker. But a growth of dirt and corrosion has covered them. The ego, our notion of self-importance and our conviction that we are separate and independent of our Maker, has encased the pure and shining mirror of the soul. How is the mirror to reflect the love and compassion, the beauty and joy of its Creator when the mind is completely dominant, supporting the ego at all costs?
Polishing the mirror is taking control over the mind with its negative tendencies and its habit of seeking pleasure from the senses. It is ceasing to indulge the mind which is like a bottomless well. To gain control over one’s thoughts, simran is an invaluable tool.
In addition to controlling our thoughts through simran, we must be careful what we expose our mind to, through books, movies, discussions.
The American philosopher Henry David Thoreau writes in Life Without Principle:
We should treat our minds, that is ourselves, as innocent and ingenious children, whose guardians we are … and be careful what objects and what subjects we thrust on their attention. Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.
As guardians of our minds, we keep our attention in repetition, and in the awareness of the Master’s presence. In remembrance of his pure, radiant and loving presence, the ego retreats and we let go the notion of control. As the fabricated self is scoured from our mind, we expose mirror of our soul. The clear light of Shabd then fills our consciousness and is reflected back into the world.