Finding Beauty

“The most liberating thing about beauty is realizing you are the beholder.
This empowers us to find beauty in places others have not dared to look.
Including inside ourselves.”
~~Salma Hayek

It is easy to become bogged down in negativity and disillusionment. Sometimes life becomes overwhelming and we become lost in the ever looping cycle of disappointment, desire, longing, comparison, worry and maybe fear.

Winter is thinking about giving up it’s hold on Nature. It still is in the teasing phase of backing off for a day only to return the next with snow and cold. At these times we grumble through the house commenting on how cold it is. We dig the sweater out the drawer where it had carefully been put to keep safe until next winter. Looking out the window we are struck by how gray and white everything is, longing for color. Bleh. Winter. What is ever good about winter we wonder? We long for spring, sunshine, warmth, blue, green and yellow so we can feel good and cozy and energetic. Ahhhh, to be again in the Light.

Many years ago on a rainy, very cold and bitter Halloween a friend and I were with our children as they made the rounds of the neighborhood. My friend commented on how uncomfortable we all were in the chill of the night. As she spoke we passed under a street light that illuminated a web glistening with frozen crystals. I paused and marveled at the beauty of Nature’s art. My friend laughed as she passed me and wondered how I managed to find something of beauty to marvel at in the cold dreariness of the evening. She ended with “You seem to always find the good and the beautiful in everything.”

I laugh now remembering that night because I do not always remember to see the beauty of the moment. Honestly, sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to push passed all the wallowing. With mindfulness and being present, finding beauty can be some what effortless and always calming. Beauty is everywhere. Beauty helps us relax and find rest, hope and peacefulness.

“Beauty” is a word that has positive connotations. But “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder and we all have different definitions of beauty. My friend from Halloween did not define a sparkling web and a cold wet night as something of beauty. I did see it as such and acknowledged without the night and cold, I would possibly have never seen the beauty there in the light of a street lamp.

For me, the act of being present and mindful, in that situation, allowed me to see the inherent beauty in something separate from the moment in time that was physically unpleasant.

Honestly though, I am not able to do this all the time, but I do try to look for beauty, the goodness in a moment that may initially want to go down a different path. By pausing and taking note of any small, wonderful part of any moment my overall mood changes.

” A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” ~John Keats

The definition of beauty includes: ” gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” While the weather was miserable that night, the glittering spider web was visually beautiful and spoke to my spirit as something magically beautiful.

For me this is all just a reminder to pause to be aware of how we are viewing or approaching something during the course of our day. If we meet something with upset, regret, disappointment, hurt, the overall result is a negative feeling. If we pause and sit with whatever it is for just a little bit, perhaps we can find the pearl in amongst the discarded broken shells.

I am definitely working on this daily as I try to find any moment of beauty in the last 8 months recovering from an aneurysm. There was so much that was dark and scary. So many things that made me feel fear, anger, confusion, worry. Yet, with a deep breath and with pausing, I was able to find a few pearls. First there was the proof of love’s strength and courage. I have no doubt the love of my family and friends was key in me being able to surmount the dire possibilities of having an aneurysm rupture. I experienced the power of love. Oh, I most certainly had been aware of the power of love, but this was a new dimension of understanding.

As my body (and mind) heal I see the beauty in the strength of the human body to overcome obstacles. I find great beauty and blessing in having a warm bed each night that embraces my weary body and soul and allows me to sleep and be healed. I understand the beauty and gift of life each and every morning as I am aware that I have opened my eyes to a new day. I experience yet another level of beauty and joy in motherhood as I embrace my children. I look upon my husband and see the beauty of his love and selflessness as he walks side by side with me every single step of the way. I see and feel beauty in the cold of the morning because I feel it. There is beauty literally all around me. Within the act of acknowledging beauty I am becoming healed and whole. I experience gratitude and am humbled by the beautiful, nurturing power of love.

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Beauty comes to us all the time in so many ways. It is left to our interpretation of things to define experiences as beautiful or something different. It takes work and is sometimes difficult, but the payout is peace of mind, a full heart, and the promises of possibility, joy and hope.

I also know there are very bad things that happen to people and that beauty hides. This is my story, my walk with beauty. If you are in a dark and lonely place I will hold you gently in love and light.

 

 

 

 

 

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Waterfalls From Heaven

I feel differently when I am outside. I think differently. I see differently. I hear differently. I smell things differently. I feel the air around me differently.

I change. I slow down. Calm down. I shed wants and unknown fears.

Nature heals.

Our part of NYS was in a pretty bad drought last year. There was briefly talk of having to truck water in to our community.

About 20 minutes from my home is a narrow, 215 foot waterfall. Not tall by some standards, but still beautiful. During the drought, the water stopped. The waterfall had become just a cliff. The thundering water was silenced. The mist vanished.

This spring we have had rain. And rain. We are now in a flood warning. Our lake is high, yards and homes are flooded.

Easter morning we walked the gentle trail to our waterfall, Taughannock Falls. The water was flowing.

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Taughannock, photo by me 4/16/17

The mist purified and baptized me in a way no organized dogma could. The thunder of the raging water muffled noises in my head of worry, fear, doubt. I could smell the scent of the earth, damp, decaying and, also, alive. I focused on the force and power of the milky water launching off the side of rock cliff that was too old to comprehend. Somewhere in those rocks and cliffs are fossils of life from ancient sea beds.

The Waterfall at Lu-Shan

Sunlight streams on river stones.
From high above, the river steadily plunges–

three thousand feet of sparkling water–
the milky way pouring down from heaven.

Li Po

Surely our little waterfall is a tiny bit of the milky way pouring down from heaven. Heaven reaching down towards Earth. A reminder of things inter-connected. A reminder to seek beauty and tread lightly. A reminder to look up in wonder and awe at the stars in the universe. A reminder to look all around this biosphere called Earth with humility and and respect, gentleness and stewardship. A reminder to live in moderation and care, balance and understanding. A reminder to pause in gratitude and appreciation for our Mother Earth and all the life she supports.

**It’s spring!! That means Earth Day, marches and standing up to protect the only home we have: Earth. Here are some readings to ponder This Week

 

 

New Year Resolution

My hope for the new year is that it be filled with healing. That we have the courage and commitment to every each and every one of us on this earth to look around and see we have to do things differently. For each other. We must do something. I know there is much that is good and beautiful in the world. I see both every day. I feel, see, hear the goodness, the kindness, the beauty. Hopefully I also help to contribute the existence of both. And yet….

I watched some old movies over vacation. From the 40’s and 50’s. I feel, in many ways, we are in the same place with some things. I’m talking about the things that haven’t improved, changed. I’m talking about the same social prejudices and oppression. The same racial profiling. The same stereotyping. We still try to fix things through violence and killing, bullying and punishing. We still live in fear. We still discriminate because of many things. It appears we haven’t gotten very far.

i-am-only-one-but-still

I find the different responses to this blog interesting. There is the group who says, “Wow, so serious. Lighten up. It’s all good. Just let it go.” Another suggests I not be political. There is a smaller group that keeps saying “I am so sorry you are hurting so much.” The largest group says, “Thank you for inspiring me and making me think. Thank you for challenging me.” And, there it is….I hear people don’t want to talk politics, or to be serious. I hear lighten up, EVERYTHING is good…just let go, don’t worry. I hear that “hurting” is sad. I hear I may inspire others.

I will be political because that is what governs us as a whole. So many of us are left behind. Invisible. Ignored. I am serious and I will not lighten up or let go of feeling empathy and compassion for those suffering, in pain and being oppressed and held down. I do hurt and I think that is a good thing, not something  I or others should feel sad about. I care. I hope I do inspire people…even a little bit. Someone said something very powerful to me a little ways back, they said “You make me think about things differently.” That’s all I want to do. You don’t have to agree with me. Just think. Learn something new that doesn’t play into your confirmation biases. I work hard every day to try to check in on these for myself…it is very difficult, but so important.

Now here we are at the dawn of a new year. We’ll celebrate in infinite amounts of ways from drunken stupors to running for life as homes are being bombed. Some will watch a loved one die tonight, while somewhere else a new life will burst forth and cry the air into his or her lungs. Many of us will pause and be grateful. Thankful. Many of us will cry out.

Some of us will light bon fires and throw pieces of the past year into the flames to symbolically release them from our lives for ever. Some will sing and dance and honor Nature. Some of us will make a list including the promise to loose weight, eat better, give up something, make time for ourselves, travel, do something new.

Me? I am going to use this poem to guide me through the new year.

Kiss the Earth

Walk and touch peace every moment.
Walk and touch happiness every moment.
Each step brings a fresh breeze.
Each step makes a flower bloom.
Kiss the Earth with your feet.
Bring the Earth your love and happiness.
The Earth will be safe
when we feel safe in ourselves.

~by Thich Nhat Hanh

My resolution is to use this poem to ground me daily. With every step, to kiss the Earth.

For my action, I will use Thay’s poem as my centering prayer, my chant, as I go through my day. To be mindful of each step. As it kisses the Earth.  To walk with awareness and find and touch peace. To walk with awareness and touch happiness. To bring the Earth my love and happiness combined with concern and care. To work towards all of feeling safe in and with ourselves so the Earth will be safe too.

I am also choosing one word to be my lamp lighting the way through the year. I will carry it with me throughout the day, as a reminder of my intentions.

My word is “open”. My intention is to be open. Open to Empathy. To Compassion. To Truth. To Hope. To the stories of all. To not shut myself off to the suffering and sorrow in the world. To be open. To not turn away. To bear witness.

I’d really like to hear from you. Tell me your hopes for the new year.

As always, a link to what I’ve been reading:  This Week

 

 

“the untrimmable light of the world”

Mindful
by Mary Oliver

Every day
I see or hear
something
that more or less
kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant –
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these –
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
I don’t know about you, but everyday I have to work at remembering to look and listen for the things
“that more or less kills me with delight”.
There is so much that distracts me or draws my attention away from being able to see the
” ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.”
So much that is beautiful, wonderful, miraculous is in front of us every day.
If only we would look and listen. We would see and hear.
Gratefully I work with young children who challenge me every single day to look differently, in order to see differently, in order to think differently, in order to understand differently. And in doing so, I am able to witness the common magic of each day.
“It was what I was born for –
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world –
to instruct myself
over and over
in joy,
and acclamation.”
oregon-sunriseIf we could only remember…this is what we were born for……
What is good, beautiful and true demands we keep our hearts open, our eyes alert, our minds uncluttered. In doing so it becomes possible to turn away and refuse what is wrong and instead work for what is right. To embrace the potential and possibility of goodness, kindness, helpfulness, understanding, compassion….
Instructing ourselves in “joy and acclamation” for all that is part of the untrimmable light of the world.
Do not drown in fear, despair, hate or worry. Look up and around. Most certainly there is darkness and death and violence, war and intolerance. But there too is light, life, love, understanding and acceptance. Rise up allow yourself to grow wise with the delight of the world so that joy and love will win over all else and spread across our world. So that we will learn how to adapt to a world of peace, of having enough for all, kindness, hope, respect….and we will learn how to rise together and always welcome and honor one another.
A four-year old stood in the middle of our circle at group time and announced, unsolicited, that it was time to make a “declaration”. I asked what she meant and she said “We have to pray for peace. We have to hold hands and say ‘I declare peace.’ “
So  we did.
And then we declared kindness.
Then love.
Please vote.
This week’s reading:  This Week

“We All Dwell In A House of One Room”

If you have ever read anything by John Muir, it is difficult to imagine what the world would be like had he not come along and fallen in love with Nature and the Earth. Through his legacy we have come to value, honor and respect the miracle of Nature. We cannot fail to delight in the beauty the Earth offers us at every turn. We cannot shirk the responsibility to tend and care for her, always remembering we are the ones who have the power to possibly destroy her.

Picture Rock2

Picture Rock Lakeshore National Park by Kathryn Howlett

I am an IMAX junkie! I love the big screen. I mean the REALLY big screen. Yesterday we saw a beautiful movie on the National Parks of the U.S. Some beauty was so stunning it made me catch my breath. There were moments that brought a tear to my eye and caused me to whisper “wow”.

Afterwards my husband, son and I agreed there is so much Natural, physical, planetary beauty here in this country one could spend years exploring, enjoying and communing with it. I was a little taken aback when the woman holding the door open for us laughed and commented, “That’s not for me!” I hoped she was talking about the ice climbing, rock climbing, biking…..but  found it sad to think perhaps that also meant she might never go to one of these places just to experience the beauty. We don’t have to “do” anything. Just open your eyes to the beauty of Nature.

I find such sorrow in all the hurt mankind has inflicted on Earth. And I find hope in knowing the Earth has great healing power to mend the wounds we have inflicted upon her…if we give her the chance.

“If you know wilderness in the way that you know love,
you would be unwilling to let it go. …
This is the story of our past and it will be the story of our future.”
Terry Tempest Williams

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Redwood National Park by Kathryn Howlett

John Muir was a man who was at home in the wilderness and saw and understood the power, beauty and fragility of our Earth. Thanks in part to his efforts and to Teddy Roosevelt who found great personal healing in the wilderness, we have these tremendous National Parks.

“Wilderness is a necessity…They will see what I meant in time.
There must be places for human beings to satisfy their souls.
Food and drink is not all. There is the spiritual.
In some it is only a germ, of course, but the germ will grow.”

“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to the body and soul.”

“How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious,
starry firmament for a roof.
In such places, standing alone on the mountain top,
it is easy to realize whatever special nests we make-leaves and moss
like the marmots and the birds,
or tents or piled stone-we all dwell in a house of one room-
the world with the firmament for its roof-
and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving track.”

“The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers,
of glaciers, of fertile soil.
The great poets, philosophers, prophets,
able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world,
have come down from the mountains-
mountain-dwellers who have grown strong there with the forests trees
in Nature’s workshops.”

~~Above quotes by John Muir

crater lake2

Crater Lake National Park by Kathryn Howlett

I love the part about all of us sharing the same night sky. We are all, together, under the same sky. This is a previous post: Nestled Under A Blanket of Stars There is so much we can learn from Nature. There so much healing we can receive from Nature. All we have to do is go outside, see the beauty. Find the stillness. Close your eyes. Listen.  Feel. Breathe. This is where we gain understanding. This is where healing happens. This is where love and life are honored.

This is where we see, understand and accept that “we all dwell in a house of one room.”

Please read. Don’t let this happen: House and Senate Republicans and the National Park System