When you attend a zoom meeting, whether it is with one other person or a group, your own image appears in a box, the same size as the other boxes with all the other people in them.
This is a very unusual situation. You get to see yourself as if you were not on the inside of yourself. You get to see the changing expressions on your face as you speak, and all the things you focus on when seeing your own image. Which, in my experience, is different to when I see others. When I see others, I see the emotions on their faces. I see their outer appearance; I see how age has worked its strange magic on them. But most of all, I notice how much light shines through them, how much love, or ease of being. I tend to see whether the door is open or closed to themselves. I may not be invariably accurate in what I perceive, but these are the things I pick up on. When I see my own image, on the other hand, I tend to be critical. I see the lines on my face, I see the shape of my concern, I notice whether my hair looks awful or ok; sometimes I think I am looking good and I feel a peculiarly unsatisfying pleasure, but most often, I’m not happy with how I look; I think I look older than I want to look, or uglier or less open. In other words I get caught on the image and don’t see the being which is me, or how much is able to shine through this body. And I find it very distracting from what actually interests me deeper than my self-consciousness – which is connecting with who I am with.
And what is wonderful, is that there is a little setting, called Hide Self View which means my image disappears from the screen. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could do this in life, erase our self image to prevent our fixation with it from monopolising our lives?!?
Douglas Harding had a profound awakening when he realised that he had no head. That whilst he could see other people’s heads propped on top of their bodies, he had never directly seen his own head. That where he presumed his head must be, his direct experience was that there was nothing there. Just an empty space which the whole of life flooded into through his senses, through sight, sound, smell, taste. Everything perceived and felt in the space where this thing called a head should be. Yes, he could look in the mirror and see a head but that was just a reflection, and bore no relation to his inner experience of a space in which the world appeared. He devoted his life to sharing this revelation with others as a doorway to their true nature.
We get very, very busy with appearance in our culture. Absurdly so. To the point that our image of our bodies appears to be more real and important than our lived experience of how it is to be inside this organism and experience all of life through it. It is a wondrous, miraculous thing. Yet I know many, many people who are utterly obsessed by their body’s appearance and their perception of its’ imperfections. Intelligent, wise and otherwise mature people. Who despair over how their bodies don’t match up to a culturally conditioned ideas of how bodies should look. Who have convinced themselves, or been convinced, that the key to being loveable and ok in the world lies in getting thinner or having bigger/smaller breasts, or bigger or smaller penises, or being taller, or shorter or more or less hairy. And then to top it all they despise themselves for being so shallow as to be obsessed by appearance.
When I do zoom sessions I recommend that people do the hide self view thing. I find that some people are very reluctant to do this. It makes them anxious to not be monitoring how they look, checking regularly how they are appearing.
Often I am having to meet people as they struggle to relate to anything beyond their own image on the screen, and “how awful” they look. The other day I was with someone and she said to me, “Look, will you just let me tell you what I think?” I agreed, and there it was – Look at me, I am so pale and wasted looking, and my face is covered in wrinkles. My chin is not double but triple; the bags under my eyes are disgusting. How can you bear to look at me? I feel so ashamed, I don’t want anyone to see me. Ever. Or certainly not like this!”
I have had conversations like this often enough with people over the years, to realise that trying to convince them that they look way better than they think, is pretty pointless. (And some of these people have been absolutely stunning – by any standards – which makes it all the more obvious that the ‘disease’ has very little to do with objective reality). What calls this whole drama to a halt (or at least slows it right down so as to be way less convincing) is when he or she actually lands IN his or her body, starts to feel what is here which often involves allowing emotions which have been held at bay unconsciously. A core wound we all seem to share is a conviction – either conscious, semi-conscious or unconscious – of being flawed/unloveable/not ok at our core. This will attach to any aspect of ourselves but in many will particularly focus on outward appearance. It helps to find out that this lies at the core of our ego structures and is not particularly personal – it was the motor which invoked the need to create a persona which was more acceptable /powerful/impressive or simply more noticeable in the first place…
It’s a funny old business; and such a terrible waste, but what to do?
Perhaps you are someone who is un-concerned about your appearance. But if you are concerned, and you find yourself zooming in these times, do try hiding self view for the duration. Otherwise it is like going to a dinner party, a meeting, a dance or a drink and having a large mirror coming along so you can give as much attention to your own reflection as whoever else you are with.
In reverence to the image, we risk foregoing the wonder Douglas Harding – and mystics the world over – pointed to: that you and I are not a thing (to be scrutinized, messed with and improved) but an empty, unlimited space in which everything appears. A space of being in which all experience is felt, seen, heard, tasted.
The beauty of this, is that everything, even the obsession with self image, can be included by the Allness!