Saturday, October 1, 2011

Walk in Beauty

Loving ourselves and life from where we are 

Until I decide I won't, I am penning, these blog posts in support of my ongoing sacred journey course,“Creating a Life of Contentment,"  which began Sept. 15. For one entire year, we'll be traveling together as intimate companions: to relax, let go and rest into Love; to discover the bliss of our own life. I hope you will join me here! You can learn more about the program there. 
(This post is actually my monthly column for Women's LifeStyle magazine, April 2011 issue. I wanted to share it here because it addresses what we are exploring right now in the Contentment course—savoring. I hope the 5 steps presented here will help you savor your days.)

Walk in Beauty  

"Make the most of every sense; glory in all of the pleasures and beauty which the world reveals to you ..."
~Helen Keller

In every waking moment we are surrounded by beauty, in our homes and workplaces, neighborhoods and towns. From vast landscapes that uplift and inspire to a single wild rose that opens our heart. Beauty is everywhere—if we have the eyes to see it. And the awareness to log it in: "Ah, beauty, I see you. I'll stop and spend a few minutes with you."
As the pace of life continues to accelerate, how much are we truly aware of beauty? We seem to move through our days with such speed that we view our surroundings with blurred vision, or perceive the landscape of place as if it were a black and white photograph, missing its vibrancy and allure. And, yet, when we do slow down enough to take notice, to remark on a lovely grove of trees or a sunset, do we take it in fully? Savor it? Appreciate it? Allow ourselves to feel the remarkable relaxation response that naturally comes when we give ourselves over to beauty? I sense that we don't.
Instead, we do what Adair Lara confesses to in her book, Slowing Down In a Speeded Up World: "I don't spend a meditative moment really tasting the blackberry jam or gazing at the faces of my sleeping children or stepping out to the porch to feel the rain on my face.
"Or if I do, I do it quickly, checking it off the list: Gazed at sleeping children. Lifted face to rain. Note to self: Smell roses tomorrow."
If this sounds familiar (I know it did to me when I first read this many years ago), and you'd like to have a felt experience of beauty—tap into its power to touch your heart, bringing more ease and joy into your day—consider taking these five steps toward tapping into beauty.
Slow Down
Wherever you are, a parking lot or a park, walk more slowly. Gauge your pace and slow way down. The faster you go, the less you can really see.
Look up and around instead of down. Have you ever noticed how many of us walk with our eyes downcast? Look up at the sky. Scan the horizon. Zoom out, zoom in, just like a Google map, and see what's up close and what's further away. Pay attention on purpose and take note of what you see.
Turn your senses up to "high," as if you are using a dial. Amp up your vision to notice all of the colors and hues around you. Do the same with your sense of hearing. Listen, really, listen to the sounds—or lack of them. Traffic, human voices, birds, silence. Stop moving if you can. Stand very still and simply allow the sounds and sights to fill you.
Notice how your body feels when your senses are attuned. How does your mind responding? Does each relax, let go of tension? The act of being fully present in any situation, simply observing what is happening around us while using our senses, is an act of "mindfulness," or what stress reduction researcher, Jon Kabat-Zinn calls "present centered awareness." When we respond to our daily activities in this way, we are no longer resisting what we are experiencing. We are fully engaged—our body/mind united in pure awareness—and we stop struggling. This practice alone can create a powerful relaxation response. Being present with mindful attention can be very good for what ails us!
Engage this process again and again, incorporate it as a life practice, and you'll soon discover yourself craving beauty. You will be on the lookout for it, eyesight trained to scan your surroundings to search out things of beauty. Why? Because your body/mind has made the connection that it feels good to connect with beauty and, naturally, it wants more of that.
In my own life, especially when I am a passenger in a car, I am forever on the lookout for a thing of beauty to touch my heart: cloud patterns in the sky, birds in flight, grass and greenery and flowers' first bloom. We can learn to "choose beauty" in this way and focus our attention on having it more visible throughout our day.
Though the truth of the matter is beauty is always here. It doesn't go anywhere. It is we that wander and drift away, getting lost once again in the rush and blur of the day; shades of gray instead of vibrant blues and greens dominating our vision. But we can remember—and reorient ourselves back to this very moment—with attention and practice. We can learn to lean into beauty and invite it in.
As the first sprigs of spring emerge from winter's sleep, may you be delighted by their presence, newly aware of the gifts of beauty that are here ... waiting to be embraced and appreciated.

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