The Headless Way
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Commentary by Richard Lang
See a video presentation of this experiment

“But I can see my face in the mirror…”

The mirror shows you what you look like – your appearance.

Which of your appearances it contains depends on where you place the mirror.

At arm’s length it contains your face. This is more or less what others make of you at this range. (For others your features are, as in a photograph, left to right compared with what you see in the mirror.)





Bring the mirror closer and you get a slightly different picture. This is again similar to what others see at this closer range.


Bring the mirror right up to you and you get a blur – this is the inward limit of the mirror. Someone else looking at you at this range would also see a blur.

The mirror is a great device for helping you become aware of what you look like at different distances. It confirms that your appearance changes with range.

Place a large mirror further away and you will see your whole body. At this distance others would also see all of you, from head to toe. Only at this range does the whole of your body manifest.





Notice how your body in the mirror over there has a head and is the normal way up, but your real body – the one you see when you look down – is headless and the opposite way up (and your left is that mirror person’s right…).




If you imagine a large mirror moving away from you in the sky, you would see your human appearance shrinking to a dot and being replaced by the local environment - houses, roads, fields… followed by your country and continent. This is more or less what observers would also see looking at you from a plane or rocket. At close range you see your individual face in the mirror, at greater ranges your urban and then your national face. Each is a valid view of you, an important layer of your identity. Sometimes we identify deeply with our neighbourhood, city, country…

Now imagine a mirror on the moon: what would it contain? The beautiful Earth. Hold a mirror at arms length and you see your human face; imagine a mirror on the moon and you would see your planetary face. You need both faces, both bodies. How could you breathe without either your lungs or your atmosphere? Your life depends on both layers.

At greater ranges what would a mirror reveal? Your solar body, then your galactic body. You cannot exist without these bodies either.

Archetypal images of these layers sometimes emerge into consciousness in our dreams. Deep down we know we are far wider and deeper than just our human self.

Thus the mirror confirms what science reports – your human identity is only one layer in an onion-like system made of many layers.

Who, then, is at the centre of all these layers? Who or what are all these appearances appearances of?

The mirror cannot tell you for you cannot physically bring it all the way home to your centre. The nearest image you can see of yourself, using a mirror, is a blur. And though scientists may get closer, revealing the blur to be cells, molecules, atoms, particles… however close they approach they always remain distant from you, outside you.

Your appearances are on show to others and to yourself in the mirror. How can you uncover what are you at the heart of all these appearances, at no distance?

Look for yourself. It’s as simple as that.

Looking For Yourself

When you look in a mirror, you see your face there.

Do you see a second face on your side of the mirror, or do you see space?

I find no face here confronting the face in the mirror. I am space here for my appearance there. I am capacity for my face in the mirror.

Over there behind the glass is my human appearance; here this side of the glass is my divine reality. I am both. I have that face and I am this reality. My face there is an appearance of the One I really am - here. (One of my many appearances.)


Is this also true for you? Where is your face? Here, or there?

Try this: point back at yourself whilst looking in a mirror.

The person in the mirror is pointing back at their face.

What is your finger - this side of the mirror - pointing at?

A face or space?

What Difference Might This Make In Your Life?


When you see into your True Nature you see that your appearance belongs out there in the mirror and in others. You take seriously the fact it isn’t given here at centre. Your humanity is peripheral. What a relief. There is nothing to maintain at centre, nothing to worry about, nothing to adjust, change, heal, get rid of, get depressed about, criticize, boast about... You can relax back into this free and healthy space – if you choose to. Here at centre you are supremely well – you’ve never been better!

Your Human Self

You are divine at centre, human in appearance – at a certain range. Seeing Who you really are doesn’t mean you are no longer aware of your appearance, no longer self-conscious – that’s impossible as well as undesirable. So you still respond to your name, still recognize yourself in the mirror, still take responsibility for your actions. Of course. But you are now aware that your humanity is like a disguise, an incarnation you have taken on to be here in this world. Inwardly you are God, outwardly you are a person – a unique person with a special contribution to make. Instead of thinking you are just that person, that appearance, you are awake to the Power behind you, the Safety within you, the Source of inspiration and guidance at the heart of your human life. This enables you to be yourself even more so.

Unconditional Love

This Power at your back, this Safety residing in the very heart of you, is unconditional love in the sense that this head-free space, being no-thing, has no means of rejecting anyone or anything. You are built open - for your own life and for the lives of others.

The discovery of Who you really are is a profound challenge to the way we normally see ourselves and others. As we go on living from the Truth, the way we relate to both ourselves and others changes at the deepest level. Attend to the Truth, and find out how the discovery of unconditional love affects you personally.

Douglas Harding:

One of the greatest instruments of the truth that God is nearer to me than Douglas is the mirror, which takes that Douglas obstruction out of God’s way. My mirror is a marvellous, marvellous teacher, more valuable than all the scriptures of the world. Face to No-Face, Douglas Harding.

My mirror confirms this wide-openness right here where I am. The very thing which long ago put a face on me now relieves me of it. Now I look in the glass to see what I’m not like! Douglas Harding

The whole of my life and what I have to share with people is, Come back from identifying with the guy in the mirror, who is very important but is there. Come back from him there to here, to his Origin, which is exactly where you are. Video Interview with Douglas Harding

See also My Special Friend by Douglas Harding

Continue with another experiment


His form has passed away, he has become a mirror: naught is there but the image of another's face. Rumi

But we all, with unveiled face, reflecting as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed. St. Paul

Alone, without form or face,
Foothold or prop, one goes on
To love That, beyond all creatures,
Which may be won by happy chance. St. John of the Cross

As a beauty I am not a star -
There are others more handsome by far -
But my face, I don't mind it,
For I am behind it:
It's those in front get the jar. Attributed to Woodrow Wilson

A sleepy-eyed grandmother
Encounters herself in an old mirror.
Clearly she sees a face,
But it doesn't resemble hers at all. Tozan Ryokai

Everyone likes a mirror, while not knowing the true nature of his face. After all, how long does a reflection remain in view? Make a practice of contemplating the origin of the reflection… This cheek and mole go back to the Source thereof. Rumi

And we, spectators always, everywhere,
looking at, never out of anything!…
Who's turned us round like this? Rilke

I'm looking for the face I had
Before the world was made. Yeats

Loosing and dropping off body and mind, your Original Face is clear before you. Zazen-gi

Not one of the 1700 koans of Zen has any other purpose than to make us see our Original Face. Daito Kokushi

When thought is put down, the Original Face appears. Daito Kokushi

He that beholds his own Face - his light is greater than the light of the creatures. Though he die, his sight is everlasting, because his sight is the sight of the Creator. Rumi

A Brahmin went for help to the Buddha, carrying a gift of flowers in each hand.
"Let go," commanded the Buddha, and the Brahmin dropped the flowers in his right hand.
"Let go," repeated the Buddha, and the Brahmin dropped the flowers in his left hand.
"Let go," said the Buddha again, and the Brahmin stood nonplussed.
"Let go of what is in neither hand, but the middle."
At these words the Brahmin went away satisfied.

When thou seest in the pathway a severed head… of it thou wilt learn our hidden mystery. Rumi

I am free from head. Rumi

You have never beheld the head of Man: you are a tail. Rumi

Behead yourself! Rumi

You must choose one of two things - either have your head cut off or go into exile… He who loves Me, but loves his head better, is no true lover. Attar

He played away his head, laughing and rejoicing. Rumi

A monk said he had the precious sword. Ten-t'ou stretched out his neck, saying: "Well, then, cut off my head." The monk said: "Your head is off!" at which Yen-t'ou laughed loudly. But the monk did not perceive the meaning of that laughter. Blue Cliff Record

The precious Vajra sword is right here and its purpose is to cut off the head. Tai-hui

If He sever one head from the body, He at once raises up thousands of heads for the beheaded one. Rumi



A friend asked her daughter, who was four, to go to the bathroom to wash her face. When my friend looked into the bathroom, her little daughter was washing her face – the face in the mirror! On another day my friend and her daughter were looking at the school photograph. Her daughter could identify every face except one – “I’ve never seen that little girl at school!” R.L. UK

Last week a friend visited me. He was depressed and afraid of the future. I handed him a mirror and asked him to look at the face in that mirror. Who is that, I asked him. He said: “Well, it’s me, with a sad and pale face.” Then I asked if he could concentrate on the look with which he watched that face. I asked him if he could identify with that look, rather than with the face in the mirror. Much to my surprise he said yes. until that day he had rejected anything I said about headlessness. This was probably a much more direct way. If this ‘look’ was him, really, I asked him what he could say about it. He said it had no properties, no features, but it was obviously his ‘nucleus’.

This morning, remembering that event, a new Seeing exercise came to my mind. I think it could demonstrate one’s Headlessness in a very simple way. Here it is:

Look at the face in the mirror. Let’s find out if that is you. Look closely, see if you recognise yourself there. It is a very familiar face. Is that really you? Now, close your eyes. What has disappeared? And what stays? Who is aware of the fact that the face in the mirror has disappeared. With what can you ‘see’ that the face has disappeared? H. Holland

Continue with another experiment

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