You glance at the mirror one last time before leaving for work, making sure you groomed yourself properly for your day. As you drive in your car, you notice a billboard for an underwear advertisement featuring a model who has fewer lines in their face, straighter teeth, and more impressive features all around. You wonder what it would be like to possess such a superior form of beauty to your own.
As you wait at a stop light, a man crosses the street in front of your car who looks run down, tired, and half-asleep in his eyes. You express gratitude toward yourself for looking so much healthier than he does and having greater vitality with which to pursue your day.
As you arrive at your office, you feel a bit disturbed by a co-worker who gives you a funny look when you walk past their cubicle. After you check your watch to make sure they couldn't be mad at you for being late--which you're not--you wonder what you did to inspire such an odd expression on their face.
Now, answer the following true-or-false question:
True or False... You have all of the information you need to successfully compare your face to each of these three people you saw in this scenario.
You may not be surprised to know that the answer to this question is false, for you don't know if the model's image in that advertisement was airbrushed, edited, or manipulated in other ways. You don't know if the run-down person from your commute is simply under the weather and will be back to his much healthier looking self tomorrow. You don't know if the person at work who looked at you in that funny way was thinking about something else entirely when the two of you made eye contact. Though these seem like valid ways to challenge the validity of your sense of inferiority, superiority, or defense, the main reason you have no authority to make any sort of comparison is far simpler: You can't compare your face to theirs because you've never seen your face before.
And you never will.
Yes, you prepared for your day while looking at a mirror. Yes, you've seen your reflection in many pools, ponds, lakes, and puddles for as long as you've been near water. And yes, you've been photographed, filmed, and even web-cammed at various moments throughout your entire life. Though these resources may have provided you with a likeness of your face, they've never once provided you with the ability to actually see your face. Your eyes can only see what's beyond them, and everyone else's eyes will have the same limitations as well.
We are becoming more and more image-driven and self-conscious in our lives. We have therefore placed an increasingly larger amount of importance on our looks, and compare ourselves to images in the media, cover ourselves up with make-up, and even go as far as to alter our image through plastic surgery in pursuit of the perfect face. Once we saw our own face through the mirrors, photographs, and puddles, we became obsessed with how we could polish it, duplicate it, and eventually adore it. We switched our awareness from the eternal godliness explained to us by the ancient sages to the self-serving, superficial distraction called the face. Now, from early morning to the time of sleep, we wonder how our face is holding up, whether or not our hair will last, and if we too will one day be seen crossing the street looking run-down and tired.
You may have achieved many things in your life, had many relationships, and completed many different tasks in any number of vocations. You may have travelled the globe, fallen in love, and overcome your deepest fear. One thing that you have not achieved, however, is to see your own face. No living being ever will. Do you wonder, though, why the creative energy some of us know as God even designed us so we would never see our own image? Since we only see others, we are reminded that we are here to serve others. We're designed to never see our own face so as to move away from the more material and burdensome task of seeking ego-based gratification. Those same ancient sages have taught us that we are now experiencing the densest part of humanity's ongoing cycle of existence; most of us choose not to do anything about this.
When we pursue the practice of yoga, we seek the elimination of the fluctuations of our mind.
These are the patterns through which we compare our impression of our own image to the image of others. The removal of these fluctuations allows us to realize the most natural form of ourselves, and when we draw inward toward this creative energy we see not a comparison of images but an opportunity to serve others as part of this same force.
Life's beauty is born from each of our individual abilities to make a choice as to how we will live it. Rather than covet the face of advertisements, compare ourselves to the faces of the unwell, and defend against the face of potential antagonists, look at each face you see as a reminder to serve the person behind it. It is this act of selfless expression that makes us whole.
We may never see our own face, but through a spiritual practice we may know our face and everyone else's to be that of God's reflection. To serve others is to truly live.
Author of 'The Guru in You'