Why Beauty Is Such An Integral Part Of Life (and Meditation)
“Pavel Konstantinovitch,” he said in an imploring voice, “don’t be calm and contented, don’t let yourself be put to sleep! While you are young, strong, confident, be not weary in well-doing! There is no happiness, and there ought not to be; but if there is a meaning and an object in life, that meaning and object is not our happiness, but something greater and more rational. Do good!”Chekhov, Gooseberries
Some of my friends are interested in politics and current affairs. They regularly go to protests and support humanitarian efforts around the world. For example, one friend is working as an eye doctor to solve blindness in developing countries. Another works for a wiki leaks style company, passionate about preserving our online privacy. Another is interested in the politics of sex and gender. She works tirelessly to rebalance women’s rights and promote equality.
I too have been directly involved in the political sphere. In my late teens and early twenties I studied politics and worked in London at The House Of Parliament for two well known members of parliament, also making a small cameo working at The Centre For Social Justice in Lambeth North in London, a project aimed at improving the quality of life and wellbeing in certain parts of inner city London.
At the time I was keen to improve the world through political and social action. But as the years went by my interest moved from the political (societal wellbeing) to the psychological (individual wellbeing) through to where it rests today, in meditation and poetry (the spiritual dimension of life).
I followed my interest as it evolved through the years and I couldn’t possibly have planned all it’s twists and turns. If you’d told me at 16 that one day I’d write books about the healing power of poetry I would have been very surprised!
But isn’t it like that for many of us, you just can’t write life can you?
Anyway….Where are we going with this?
How Can Beauty Improve Your Wellbeing?
Ah yes, beauty. So nowadays I’m mostly interested in the life-giving wellbeing benefits of beauty. And when I say beauty I’m not talking about using luxury make up and spa products – although I do love pampering! After all, there’s much to be said for a little TLC and as the old saying goes, if you look good you often feel good.
However in todays blog post I’m championing beauty from a wider, more artistic perspective.
- A beautiful sunset or painting
- A beautiful flower or orchard
- A beautiful poem
- A beautiful dance
- A beautiful conversation
- A beautiful smile from a stranger
- The beauty of a random act of kindness
Amazingly, true beauty is both everywhere and free. But many of us spend lots of time and money trying to become more beautiful and create a more materially beautiful life; yet all along there is a lush beauty all around us that cannot be bought.
Is Beauty Enough Though?
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is allJohn Keats
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’
But is beauty practical enough to help a person struggling with some of the more essential parts of life like hunger, grief or poverty. Or are beautiful things simply ornamental, a lift in a busy day?
Yes. At one level that’s exactly what they are and what a lovely lift they offer. Who here doesn’t appreciate the smell of fresh roses or watching the sunrise of a morning?
And there’s more. There is something conveyed to us in beautiful things and it goes beyond aesthetics. True beauty is a calling card from eternity. Beautiful things call out from within the dream to say…
They (beautiful things, flowers let’s say) reach down within us and grab hold of the part of us that has a quiet remembering of a distant beautiful place we have once known, and now know again through the flower.
A place like home where we are splendid and magnificent. A place where nothing is missing.
Here’s a little story about the role beauty plays in our lives. It’s not a perfect story – it’s so tricky to try to put words around these things I find – but I hope it helps offer a small example at least.
As if my magic, and as though within a dream, you awaken all of a sudden to find yourself travelling far, far away from home in some distant foreign land…
The time is unknown and everything is different here somehow…What happened to all the creature comforts of home, to all the things you once new and loved?.. To who you were?
Despite things feeling dreamy and unfamiliar you carry on covering the ground of life until eventually the homesickness fades and you begin to fall sleepy and forget all about your old life….Of home and all the things you once knew.
Years and years pass by… and lots happens in the meantime! (Ups, downs, highs, lows, family, work, travel, adventure, riches, hardship and love… not necessarily in that order)
One day you sit down to dinner at an ancient tavern and find a bottle of Tomato Ketchup sauce nestled easily between the unusually shaped salt and pepper shakers. The sight of it sparks a joyful flutter in your heart and a sense of familiarity comes over you..
It reminds you of something deliciously familiar… Although, you can’t quite put your finger on exactly what it is…
You go on with your life but in the years that follow you encounter more and more of these homely and familiar tokens on your travels. Each sighting is beautiful in and of itself – but also very reassuring.
Your interest in discovering the place they remind you of grows keener…
One day you spot yet another homely token while out on your travels (- the Tomato Ketchup again perhaps), and as if my magic it breaks your dream – you wake up at home in bed – ‘Aha! it was just a dream‘
And so it is with beautiful things. They lift your spirits on a day to day level, but somewhere in another dimension of life they are the little calling cards love leaves you along the track.
Each petal a breadcrumb, inviting you home.