Beauty, A Guiding Principle

On the way home the other night I was thinking about a book I’d read a while ago called The Four Desires. In it the author talks about uncovering and expressing your dharma, which essentially means your personal mission / vision statement. I was thinking about this because I was finishing up another long and busy week of work and coming home to a week of vacation. Somehow just the promise of open time creates that immediate pull back into big picture questions for me.

I was thinking about what motivates me, my driving principles, the ideas and ideals that attract me. Based on the things I’ve always liked to do and be around, I think it’s come down to a single word:  beauty. I like to be around beauty, to create beauty. I like to see beauty in others, and when it’s not there, I try to encourage beauty and I hope for the beauty that will come. In many cases beauty does mean the physical kind — comfortable and supportive home, lush gardens, comfortable clothing, inspiring artwork — but it also means the beauty in moments, in people, in relationships.

The hard part for me, though, is that it’s much easier to see and create outward beauty rather than inward beauty. I can see when something has become beautiful or is approaching beautiful, and others can see it, too. That seeing validates the time and effort given over to a beautification project. But inward beauty, that’s tough. Can we see how a child has become more a more patient sibling, a better independent problem-solver, a more resilient student? Can we see how a co-worker has pushed herself to be more positive and complain less about work? Can we see when a neighbor has committed himself to a more forgiving approach to his wife and kids?

So for me I’ve been thinking of making that challenge a focus this week — looking to see the internal beauty in others. How can I find those beautiful moments and see them and know them while they’re happening — and not so much that it ruins the moment, but just enough to be awake to them? How can I notice positive change in others? How can I raise my awareness to kindness, generosity, patience, enthusiasm, gentleness, courage?

In some ways this week’s challenge will be easier than any other week because I’ll have the time and space to relax and slow down and really look — I’m off work. But it will be a good place to start this habit of mind. And this isn’t to say that I will ignore things that must be discerned or defended against, rather that I will put my energy and attention on things that merit being centerstage and let the things that don’t wither and fade a little more. Care to join me?

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