Activating Mirror Neurons Through the Mutual Awakening Practice

Some people describe God as consciousness, or as high vibrational energy, and even as the “plane of possibility” (Daniel Siegel).  However, the truth is that we humans don’t, or perhaps can’t, fall in love with concepts or abstractions. Through Jesus, Christians claim, God became a person “that we could hear, see with our eyes, look at, and touch with our hands” (1 John 1:1).  In the Mutual Awakening Practice, we learn to engage with each and every person that way.

The Mutual Awakening Practice is done with another person, with eye contact, while speaking.  The practice sweeps us into an intersubjective state where love is what is exchanged. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan Priest, says, “Jesus taught us what God is like through his words, his actions, his very being, making it clear that “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16).”  With Mutual Awakening, we ignite that love between us such that we are inside of God/Love together.


If it’s true, as the brilliant Jewish philosopher, Emmanuel Lévinas (1906-1995) said, that the only thing that really converts people is “the face of the other,” then Mutual Awakening is the practice that allows that to manifest in our relationships with one another, and in the world.

It has been well documented through both our lived experience and scientific research that when we look into the eyes of another person, we receive and empathize with the face of the other.  This act can lead to the transformation of our whole being. It creates a moral demand on our heart that is far more compelling than laws, the Ten Commandments, or the Golden Rule (to love one another as you love yourself).  Just telling people to love one another doesn’t change the heart. Again, as Rohr says, “It may steel the will, but it doesn’t soften the heart like a personal encounter can.”

So many mystics talk about seeing the divine face or falling in love with the face of Beloved.  In the study of infant bonding, that is called “mirroring.” We are mirrored not by concepts, but by actual human faces delighting in us, reflecting to us the face we can’t give to ourselves.  We are mirrored.

The early bonding and mirroring that we receive from our parents is particularly important.  Neuroscience now shows that the gaze between a newborn and his or her loving caretaker activates “mirror neurons” that help a person become compassionate and have empathy for others as they grow up.  If our early bonding was what is called “secure,” where we received sufficient and accurate mirroring, then we are more likely to develop this capacity to connect with, and truly love, others. If we did not receive this kind of mirroring, we are more likely to have challenges.

Because it is an eyes open practice, where we gaze into one another’s eyes, the Mutual Awakening Practice activates our mirror neurons and naturally brings us into a shared-intersubjective space where love begins to penetrate and transform us.  The Practice gives us the opportunity to learn to mirror the deepest part of ourselves, what we call our Origination Point, or True Identity. When that part of us is seen, heard, and experienced, it comes forth - cutting through our psychological identities and emotional defenses.  


We know that when caregivers and infants gaze at each other, their brain activity increases; parts of their brains literally light up.  We’re discovering that when we do this with, and for, one another in the Mutual Awakening Practice, we are being rewired and transformed by the exchange of the energy of love itself.

James Finley, author and former Trappist monk,  talks about our gazing with God this way:

When God gazes at us and we gaze at God, both of us light up. God lights up in the sense of the joy of being recognized by the one that God created in his own image and likeness for the very sake of this recognition. For us it’s a moment of visceral, intimate communion or oneness that feels like homecoming.

In the Mutual Awakening Practice, as we gaze into one another’s eyes, both of us light up as the God in each of us interconnects.  A circuit completes that includes each of us AND God. There is a profound sense of joy at being seen and recognized by one another and God simultaneously.  It is a moment of intimate communion that brings us into the lived experience of being in Shared-Unity in our day-to-day lives. It truly has the power to bring us into Heaven with one another, here and now.

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