Beauty and Mystery are connected. They inform one another and their dialogue is Grace. Beauty – that which enchants the mind and soul is in relationship with Mystery – the surrender into that which is beyond our understanding. This wondrous duo calls us to attentiveness.
Bringing attention and awareness to something that delights you is mystical and expansive. Contemplating Beauty and Mystery is about opening to grace. It is a presence – beyond the limits of old perceptions. This is a creative act.
“When we become immersed in any creative activity, we bring ourselves a sense of rapt attention, of rapture, of departure from the ego, from time and place. We see into the heart of things and get a glimpse of something that was previously hidden. In this way, the creative act is a mystical experience.” Gregg Levoy, author of Callings- Finding and Following an Authentic Life
Bowing to Beauty and Mystery
We can be so focused on the tasks of the day, that we overlook the beauty around us. One of the most luminous invitations in my life to stop and witness beauty comes from children. They are simply present with the fullness of who they are.
Earlier this summer, I was with a special little girl enjoying an afternoon in the park. She herself is a radiant expression of Beauty and Mystery. We were heading for the playground when something caught her eye. In the inviolable way that children meet the moment, this exuberant little one stopped and allowed her curiosity to unfold.
What was it that brought her to detour for a moment? A seed pod of the humble dandelion. She responded to its invitation with a special kind of surrender- one that comes quite naturally to little ones. First, she stopped. Then she picked up what emerged on her path, looked at it and breathed into it. She let the beauty infuse her!
Her presence to that surprise at her feet was her ritual. It was her bow to the mystical. Is there any other way to meet beauty but to breathe into it? This little one reminds us that we can let it inspire us with its grace. Bow to its speech. Or, to listen to its silence and to its glory. Recognize its gift with gratefulness. For a moment, it was as if she held our collective hunger and thirst for Beauty.
Why Do We Hunger for Beauty?
The lyricist Jim Croegaert writes; “Why do we hunger for Beauty?” Why indeed? Could it be perhaps to connect with something that is deeply mystical within us? To remember that are inherently whole and infused with grace?
In Animal Speak, Ted Andrews says that the butterfly tastes flowers by walking upon them. What would it be like for us to taste beauty as we walk upon this earth? To let it seep into the places where we yearn for its blessing? Into the deep of our soul’s longing or to invite it to touch our own healing?
I learn, over and over again, that shadow walks alongside light. It does so within the world and it does so within us. Shadow and light are intimate friends, much like Beauty and Mystery.
Losing sight of this relationship solidifies my resistance. Thrusting the dark into exile only grows its resolve to get my attention. It is in these times, that I go for a walk. I turn my attention to beauty. As I stand before beauty and its mystery, the stranglehold of the frozen places softens and releases.
Beauty echoes a new sound within us…
Often, it is Nature that comes to greet me and takes my hand to dance with shadow and light – with the wild and wonderful music of grace. It becomes a choreography of the fullness and the texture of wholeness. That is the acceptance of all parts of me – even those that are still hidden in the crevices.
Beauty weaves a new speech and echoes a new sound within us. One with the timbre of wholeness and joy in simply being.
Being aware of Beauty and inhaling its presence around us is not a veneer – a covering to numb us. It is, however, a portal to expression; to the roots of who we are in the midst of what we are experiencing. It helps us to find the hidden treasures within us.
Beauty opens us to Mystery as it permeates the whole world so freely. When we allow it to infuse us, we, in turn, bring about beauty in the world.
Deep is calling to deep….
The poet Hafiz says: “How did the rose ever open its heart and give to this world all its Beauty? It felt the encouragement of light against its Being. Otherwise it would remain too frightened”.
Years ago, I made a week-long retreat in a place by the exquisite and mighty Atlantic Ocean. I have a particular affinity and love for the sea. It was there, in the silence and in the expanse of its beauty, that I met an ancient wound inside of me.
At first, it was harrowing to acknowledge it. I had relegated this dark to my inner bedrock. Instinctively, I followed my feet and was led to the water – to the edge of the sea. To the place where it meets the land and announces its glory with full force against the rocks. When we can’t fully inhale the grace in the moment, the Divine gives us tender acts of kindness that melt our resistance. This was one of those moments.
Across the horizon was a rainbow. A rich spectrum of light resting upon the ineffable beauty of the sea. I allowed myself to follow the array of colour right into the core of me. To where the arc could touch the long-burrowed memory. It pierced the wall with peace. “Deep is calling to deep” says the Psalmist. The journey of healing is a deep spiralling path.
Beauty saves us…
Beauty was the light that shone upon my fright. It accompanied me to the rubble. This moment was an illumination of the promise of Beauty: It never leaves us. In fact, Beauty saves us.
When we stand before beauty and its mystery, it impacts the stranglehold of the frozen places within us. Whether it is a humble little dandelion or the majesty of the sea, mystery enters our hunger. Beauty frees us and calls us to compassion. In turn, that opens our eyes to see the Other the same way. “Learn the music” say the Psalms. Learn the music of the beauty and mystery that you are. Let it sound within you. Let is sound in our world. As Rumi says, “Let the beauty we love, be what we do.” Let it touch the often wearied heart of the world. Our world is hungry for beauty.
What Enchants You?
What enchants you and compels you to stop? Takes your breath away? Or, brings you to your breath? What is beyond words and understanding in its simplicity or in its grandeur? Is it a delicate beauty or a wild and fierce beauty? What feels like “light against your being?”
Commit to noticing beauty once a day for 7 days. In the flow of your days, turn your attention to something that that takes you to the threshold of Mystery … It may be word, a picture, a sound, a gift from nature….
Take a few seconds to honour this beauty and mystery in your life and bow to it in any way that makes sense to you. It might simply be to say silently: “I breathe in this Beauty. Or, “I stand before Mystery.”
Then notice how this simple gesture opens the flow of Beauty within you. Let it land inside of you where the Source of the Beauty that you are reverencing actually resides. The external and the internal are magnified as One.
As a prelude to this practice, I invite you to watch a short 5 minute video produced by Gratefulness.org. It holds images of resplendent beauty.
I leave you with some beautiful words- an excerpt from the poem One Hundred Objects Close, by poet Mirabai. Translated by Daniel Ladinsky in Love Poems from God.
Let your heart touch something that
makes your eyes smile… Look at beauty’s gifts to us-
Her power is so great she enlivens the earth, the sky, our soul.
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