Stepping Away from the Mirrors to Figure Out Who I Am

I found this image with a wonderful post titled “Shatter the Mirror” at

I cleaned the yoga studio this week during the afternoon, when people were around, instead of at night, all alone, like I usually do. It was rough for me.

I had to get over myself again and again because my head wouldn’t shut up about how far I’ve fallen because I’m the cleaning help. I wanted everyone to know that this manual labor is a temporary thing for me and that for decades I paid other people to clean my house.

I hate that I’m so full of it. I wrote in my book about the beauty of samu, or manual labor, an opportunity to quiet, deepen and energize our minds. In most Zen monasteries, mornings are spent sweeping, dusting, scrubbing and gardening. For thousands of years, writes Roshi Philip Kapleau in The Three Pillars of Zen, “manual labor has been an essential ingredient of Zen discipline.”

But I was worried about what these people hanging around the yoga studio might think. Did they know that I’ve been a powerful, well-compensated magazine editor? Did they know how long I’ve spent carefully crafting my image? Did they know who I am?

Lord, I hate that phrase. I hate it as much as the reverse epithet that was too often hurled at me when I was a child: Who do you think you are?

I sprayed the bouncy studio floor with special solution and pushed the mop across it. I cleaned the toilets and emptied the trash, happy with the music that Nikki, the studio owner, put on the speakers. She played songs I would play, by Jack Johnson and Bob Marley.  Bob sang, “Don’t worry about a thing,” which is my cell phone ring tone.

I didn’t dance like I do when no one’s looking, of course, but the music and the good company helped my mood.

I chatted with the owners before I left and felt blessed that I now have a neighborhood studio and a schedule that allows me the time to help out with it. I’m grateful that this new studio gives me the opportunity to leave behind the mirrors that were central to the teaching at my last studio.

Stepping away from those mirrors is a metaphor for where I am in life.

When I first stepped in front of the Corepower Yoga studio mirrors a decade ago, I was struggling to lose baby weight. I was 35 pounds and a couple sizes larger than I am now—normal by sane people’s standards—and I could barely stand to look at myself. The image I saw in those mirrors bordered on obese.

As I so often do, I took on losing that weight with a single-force dedication and zeal that overwhelmed me. I came to love those mirrors because their harsh reflections kept me focused—and returning to the studio for hot, sweaty classes day after day.

I relied on the mirrors to perfect my alignment and scrutinize my body’s fat content as I twisted and sweated away all the weight I had called baby weight and then more. And more. And a little bit more.

Instead of mirrors, my new studio has huge windows that look out over the Flatirons, the miraculous slabs of red rock that dominate Boulder’s scenic landscape. The windows connect us to the weather and the sky while we practice tree and pigeon poses.

Without mirrors, I’m learning to rely on the feeling in my body, rather than an image, to check my form.

I think I’m on the right path. One day—maybe even one day soon—I might know who I am.

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7 Responses to Stepping Away from the Mirrors to Figure Out Who I Am

  1. Karen Phillips says:

    Oh my god…I am at this moment so proud of you. You are the best ever.

  2. Laura says:

    Holding your hat and cheering you on as you make this conscious change from being an object (to be seen/identified as SOME thing, SOME one) to perceiver/dancer/doer, free of the trappings of judgments.

  3. Robyn says:

    I love this perspective, Laura! I wonder if I’ll ever be completely free from those trappings…they are so deeply imbedded. Your encouragement is helping me enjoy the journey…thank you!

  4. Jeff Bailey says:

    Thank you. You touched my heart. You are a writer, a mother, a cleaner, a yogi, a dreamer, and More…just like the rest of us. You are doing your yoga on and off the mat by looking at the world around you and what you are called to do as a reflection (not found in mirrors) that shows you True Self where there is only Love and no self-judgement. This constant discovery is our true purpose here.

  5. Robyn, it’s so interesting to watch your journey. I’ve often read stories of men who, for one reason or another, lot their high-status jobs and had to reinvent themselves and realize that they are more than their job. This must be particularly hard for you, as a woman and your openness, vulnerability and honesty are both inspiring and endearing.

    I have also wanted to tell you for several months, ever since I first read your post about leaving Organic Spa magazine, and the challenges that you went through since leaving Natural Home, that I realized that over the last 10-15 years, you have greatly impacted who I am now and the path that I am on.

    You and I have never met. We only became friends on Facebook a year or so ago. But you’ve influenced my path, my health, and my career more than you can ever know.

    Until I read that article, I didn’t know about your history with Natural Home Magazine. But that magazine was the first place I really started to learn about how to live a green & non-toxic life. It was the first place I realized all of the nuances involved in deciding what is the greener option or product, how what’s greenest for one circumstance may not be for another, and the complexities of making those decisions, and how to look deeper, beyond a label or marketing message. I think I still have the 1st edition of Natural Home Magazine-and just about ever edition since then up until a year or so ago. They have been soooooo valuable in my green lifestyle education. They started it all. You, as the leader of that magazine, started all of that, and even if I never get to meet you in person, know that I will always be grateful for that education and that your time and efforts working with that magazine have left an incredible legacy.

    Your path may be going in a different direction now, but I have no doubt but that it will be equally important and inspiring, even if it looks totally different from what you’ve done in the past. I admire not only your past work, but your current work as well. You are an inspiration, in so many ways.

    • Robyn says:

      Danika…wow…thank you! I feel like I know you as well, from our crisscrossing online paths. I know we’ll continue to meet in many different venues because I think our hearts are in the same place. Keep on doing what you’re doing…the world needs you!

  6. Pingback: Sauca, Karma and Cleaning Mats with Carole King | Robyn Griggs Lawrence

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