Mirrors present an interesting puzzle in lucid dreams because their main property in real life - reflection - is driven by the laws of physics. Yet these laws are entirely moot in dreams.
In fact, the only reason things do follow the laws of cause and effect in any dream is because we expect them to. Physical law drives our entire conscious experience and we carry it with us - both consciously and unconsciously - into the dream world.
Every "normal" construct in the dream world (cars, houses, human beings, bicycles, swimming pools, trees, dogs, clothing) has been drawn from your waking experience. If you were blue and lived on Titan, you would no doubt dream of blue aliens and green skies every night - and that would be your normality.
So your dreams are heavily based on your memories and expectations, and this creates an interesting conundrum which we can explore with dream mirrors.
Let's combine the ability of an inanimate object to function independently, with your subconscious expectations about what you look like in a dream. This experiment enables you to literally look your subconscious in the face.
The mirror experiment is simple enough. The next time you become lucid, increase your level of awareness as much as you can then seek out a mirror and look into it.
What do you see? Do you relate to the person in the mirror? Do they move the same time that you move? Do you notice anything unusual about them?
The results, you'll find, can sometimes be scary and alarming. Here's a dream excerpt from the very first time I tried this experiment some years ago:
Another time, I was having a regular dream and I had something in my eye, so I went to the mirror to check it out:
"I look in the mirror and my left eye is massive and bulbous, at least 5 times bigger than it should be and popping out of my head. I am not that surprised though, and I poke at it to see if I can dislodge the thing that's causing all the scratchiness.
Then it suddenly hits me that my eye should not be this big! I become lucid and get out of there fast. I don't want to see the giant eye anymore."
Perhaps not surprisingly, people have reported similar effects when taking psychedelics. Looking in a mirror (in real life) while hallucinating can reveal strange facial distortions.
I have also had positive experiences with dream mirrors... But for some reason it's the really messed up ones that stick with me to this day :)
Interestingly, your conscious expectations have very little impact on what you'll actually see in the mirror. This is definitely a subconscious experiment in which you can examine your subconscious self-image as well as your personal insecurities and self-doubts, as well as positive beliefs, projected onto that mirror image version of you.
I asked Pete if he had ever looked in a dream mirror and he had:
"At one stage, I looked into a mirror and asked it to show me what I would look like in a different life. I looked at myself and to my surprise, I looked fairly similar to the way I look now, except I was a bit skinnier and my hair was longer. I tried again and I was kind of fat and my teeth were crooked. I tried a few more times and in one of them I was a bit bigger but not much bigger, and my hair was very short.
My conclusion was that I must have taken it to mean I had my current genetics but had made some different choices in life. Next time, I'll try the same thing but I'll also ask myself a few questions."
What if you see some really messed up imagery in your mirror dream?
It's intriguing to interpret the symbolism of your dream. This experiment isn't simply to freak people out... I hope it can be a productive tool in your personal development.
For example, what if your teeth fall out when you look in the dream mirror? One theory is that your teeth reflect anxieties about your appearance and how others perceive you. In particular, they may reflect your sense of sexual attractiveness, femininity (among women) and the consequences of getting old. Dream research found that women in menopause frequently report dreams about teeth falling out.
However, no dream analysis is ever definitive. Teeth dreams are also found to commonly symbolize power, self-confidence, diet, faith, lies and money. Different cultures find different dream meanings, and of course there is room for variation between individuals. So while you can use a dream dictionary as a starting point, you should fill in the context of your dream, your current mind set, and also note recurring dream themes and symbols to create your own personal dream dictionary.
Lastly, when you've finished examining your appearance in the dream mirror, you can try one more experiment: use the mirror as a portal to another dimension.
Sometimes, as in the dream I had below, the mirror leads exactly where you expect it - to the wall behind!
"I go to the changing room mirror and look at my face. Previously when I looked in a dream mirror, my face is distorted or old - rarely my own. But this time I look more or less normal.
So I decide to push my face through the mirror and it feels very strange. Behind the mirror, I get a strong sense of the chalky interior of the wall and the old copper water pipes, although I do not physically 'see' them.
Although my intention was to leave my body or pass through to another dimension, I sense that it hasn't worked so I continue to experiment with the mirror. I move my head back and forth through the solid mirror to see if anything else happens. It doesn't, but I am still delighted to be passing my head through physical objects as if they are water."
If you believe the mirror to be a gateway to another location - and truly expect that to happen, visualizing events on the other side - it can be a very fun way to teleport your awareness. Here's a more recent example of this from my dream journal:
"The door to my bedroom is closed so I tell myself there will be a field on the other side of it. But when I open the door... I just see the hallway, as I annoyingly suspected! I try again, closing the door and say 'there will be a sunny field on the other side THIS time', but it still doesn't work.
I leave the room, rubbing my hands together, checking they look normal (I keep seeing 5, then 6 fingers on my hands) and saying 10 + 10 = 20 to increase my lucidity. Then I see a mirror in the hallway and decide this is my chance to teleport. I feel more lucid now, and this time I approach it slowly, pushing my fingers through the surface of the mirror and it becomes liquidy.
I push further into the mirror and finally my eyes go through and I emerge into a big meadow with a train track running through the middle. It is WAY better than I imagined. The sky is romantic - purple, blue, pink and orange - and the fields are full of beautiful wild flowers. The hills are rolling which I had not expected and there are mountains in the far distance. I am overjoyed!"
Next time you're lucid dreaming, check out your reflection and remember as much detail as you can for dream analysis when you wake up.
And remember that mirrors, doors, wardrobes and windows can all make useful portals to your next dream location...
Enjoy the mirror experiment :)