Yesterday I was at the Rain Room at LACMA with my sweetie. He, with a keen eye for composition, was snapping lots of pics. Afterwards he was showing me the ones of me…many of which my response was “Ugh, those are awful.” Delete, delete, delete. He became sullen and when I inquired into his mood, he said he felt criticized (“Those are awful photos I took,” he later revealed was his feeling). I was surprised, because I didn’t like those pictures of me? The critique was about me, not about you. Simple misunderstanding? Yes, because that’s what projection leads to. His own inner critic was being projected on to me. He was making his experience mine. Which just wasn’t so.
I write a lot about projection. It’s not so much something we’re doing wrong, as it is a way to know ourselves better. In mindfulness practice, noticing and claiming our projections helps us see where old hurts may be hiding. Helps us explore parts of ourselves we might be rejecting. Our projections are an opening to radical compassionate acceptance—if we are willing to look.
They’re also a way to remember who we are. We project beauty as much as anything else. We project it onto something outside of us, but rarely do we own it ourselves.
The thing is we can only project out there what we know in here. You can read more about this here.
This is how we know others, by knowing ourselves first. It’s also how we love others, by loving ourselves first. It’s how compassion grows and flourishes. It’s a great act of kindness.
Another act of kindness—showing up and self-care. I’ve been feeling pretty crappy this week—too crappy to write much. So instead of more words, I offer you the projection experiment. I’m thinking to make it a regular thing around here.
The projection experiment goes like this: Think of someone you love like crazy (animals are great for this experiment) and write down all the qualities you love or admire about them. Go ahead. Try it right now. I’ll wait.
Have you done it? I highly encourage you not to cheat yourself on this one. I’ll give you more time. You’re totally worth the few minutes this will take. It can be a mental list if writing feels like too much right now. Feel free to use these images if a someone doesn’t come to mind. What qualities, words, feelings do they evoke?
Ok. Now review that list and see if you can own the projection. Yep, all those qualities live in you. You’ve just been looking in the mirror. Breathtaking, awe-inspiring beauty.
Hi. Happy New Year!
With love and gratitude for your showing up,