“Life is full of beauty. Notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.” -Ashley Smith
I remember as a child having frequent moments of being awe-struck by beauty. I remember it being effortless to find things in life and in nature to marvel over. I remember being moved by the sweet smells of honeysuckle, orange blossoms and gardenias that were prevalent in Florida where I grew up. I remember looking up at the clouds in wonderment, spending long stretches of time watching them move, reshape and resemble people, places and objects. I remember rejoicing over a perfectly ripe piece of fruit or blissfully ice-cold beverage on a hot day. I remember looking up at the stars and marveling over the scale of the universe and puzzling over its creation.
Somewhere in my early adulthood, I stopped being awe-struck. I let my mind be taken over by stress and worries, absorbed in the minutia of life. I got overwhelmed by the pressure to “succeed” in school and at work. I found moments of true joy and wonderment few and far between.
I somehow told myself that being an adult meant being serious all the time and that the fun parts of life were over. Beauty seemed frivolous. Joy felt unachievable. I let my chronic anxiety rule my mind. I have since cured this, as I talk about in a previous blog post. But until I cured my anxiety, my mind was like a war zone.
In my journey to heal myself, I found my spiritual path and a way to reignite my passion for life and desire for beauty. I’ve begun to understand that joy for life and appreciation of beauty in all its forms is a critical part of our experience as a spiritual being.
Earlier this month I had the privilege to travel throughout Europe, including Croatia and Prague. I was overcome by beauty in these places. In Croatia the water was so blue and clear and friendly and the land was striking. One of my favorite spots was the Blue Cave, famous for its bright blue glowing water that lights up the walls of the cave. The natural phenomenon is created by light refracted from a crack in the cave. Most of us audibly gasped at the magnificence of this cave.
In Prague, the beauty was often found in the architecture and human creations. We attended a classical music concert there and I was so incredibly moved by the music that I cried. I sat in awe of the composers’ ability to imagine the symphony of instruments working together at the same time and all of that strung together over minutes to tell a story, without words. I sat in awe of the musicians’ talent that had been cultivated with hard work over decades. All of that work culminated in that ephemeral moment. I wanted to cling to parts of it – slow down, rewind, pause, but the nature of live music is it forces you to be in the moment and give up control.
There’s no doubt I was very fortunate to have these experiences, and that these experiences transcended normal, everyday life. But we can have these experiences close to home too. A few weeks ago in San Diego we had one of the most magnificent sunsets on record. I live inland about 8 miles and that night the sky was so gorgeous that I was compelled outside to watch it from the street corner. And so were my neighbors. People came out of their houses to stand on the sidewalk and watch the sky. Cars lingered at stop signs and the drivers peeked their heads out of the windows to see it.
Our homes are a perfect place to cultivate beauty. Bring home fresh flowers – just because. Surround yourself with objects, art and furnishings you find beautiful, not just functional. Diffuse essential oils that smell beautiful to you. Prepare food that helps you enjoy life, and plate the food beautifully before you eat it – even if you’re only cooking for yourself. Keep house plants or landscaping or gardens that connect you with the energy and beauty of the plant kingdom. Buy and wear some special wardrobe pieces that make you feel like your best self when you wear them.
And what if we can look even more closely at the beauty that surrounds us? What if we can marvel over the wrinkles around the eyes of our lover when they laugh? What if we take a few minutes to listen without distraction to a song that moves our heart? What if we pick up a passage in one of our favorite books and revel in its message? What if we take a walk in the park, smiling at everyone we see, and notice the beauty of a human smile? What if we use our talents, whatever they may be, to create something new? We can cultivate, appreciate and create beauty every single day.
Beauty is not frivolous. It’s necessary for life beyond mere survival. The appreciation of beauty in all its forms is showing gratitude for the life we’ve been given. It’s an acknowledgement of the miracle of creation, both great and small. It’s connecting to our part on the universe. It’s a willingness to let our emotions take us on a journey. It’s a way of connecting both inside and outside of ourselves. I invite you to take notice. I invite you to cultivate more beauty in your life and the lives of others.