The Japanese have a New Year’s tradition called “Kagami Biraki”, or Breaking the Mirror. It’s a martial arts ceremony that involves demonstrations of skill and a ritualistic meal of traditional foods (no actual mirror breaking occurs). The most important aspect, however, lies deeper – it is the recognition of your true self and your true circumstances, in not allowing your future to be dominated by the past. It’s a vitally important concept for anyone working to improve their finances.
Philosophy in Action: Kagami Biraki maintains that the mirror does not truly reflect the present. Although we think we see ourselves in the ‘now’, in actuality the mirror contains only our past because we look with ‘old eyes’ on our current similarity to remembered images. Every moment of every day we are literally being made anew, change is constant. The danger lies in being trapped by that remembered image, seeing only the past in our present, and worse – our present circumstances projected onto our future selves. Breaking the mirror means breaking the old patterns of how we view ourselves and recognizing what we ARE instead of what we WERE, seeing what COULD BE instead of what HAS BEEN.
Both Sides of the Coin: It’s a powerful concept (I wrote about it in terms of cancer survivorship on another site), but how does this affect your finances? There are myriad possibilities, but here are two examples of hypotheticals who held onto a negative or positive past. In either case, financial mischief ensues.
- Rags to Missed Riches: “Stevie” represents someone who was once buried in debt, or lost a fortune in bad investments or a market downturn. After cleaning up his bad behavior and paying what was owed, Stevie understandably learned hard lessons about the right ways to handle money. But fear of those past circumstances could lead him past good lessons (budget, spend less that you earn) to pinching every penny and never enjoying his money. Or he might be so scared of the markets he keeps his savings buried in his backyard (or a savings account…arguably worse) and never invests again. Bottom line: Previous circumstances, and the fear associated with them, are preventing Stevie from capitalizing on their new reality.
- Riches to Ruin: Surely a positive past wouldn’t lead to a bad future, right? “Carlotta” represents someone with a high income/high lifestyle. Carlotta made $300,000 per year, and lived in a $2 million McMansion with a lavish lifestyle (expensive cars, luxury cruises, etc). If she suddenly lost half or all of her income she would find she has trouble paying her basic bills. But whether to keep up appearances or simply to avoid dealing with a scary situation, Carlotta tries to maintain her old level of consumption, one that is now completely unrealistic. That kind of income to lifestyle disparity can exhaust savings in a heartbeat and quickly move into serious debt. Bottom line: Ignoring her new reality and living based on a lifestyle she can no longer afford could seriously damage Carlotta’s financial future permanently.
That is the meaning of Kagami Biraki; a chance to glimpse the reality we fear to – or dare not – face. Knowing and owning the truth of your constantly new self is the only way to move forward unburdened by the emotional baggage of our past failures or the blinders of past success. That’s not to say we shouldn’t always learn from our past to make better choices, but combine that knowledge with a clear understanding of the playing field.
Do you know your true self? Do you know who you are now, and the path you wish to take into your future? Break the mirror and find out…