Mid Week Faith Lift
May 21, 2014
“Behold Your Own Beauty”
Rev. Robyn Plante & Rev. Deb Hill-Davis
At the retreat this past weekend we explored what beauty means to each of us and in so doing we became aware that if you are not able to see the beauty in yourself, it is difficult to see it in someone else! It begins with you! And if you can’t see it in yourself, it becomes really tough accept it when someone else sees beauty in you and tries to share that experience of your beauty. It kind of rolls off like it hit Plexiglas and can go no further. When that happens, we don’t experience our own beauty, or the beauty of others; we are cut off from our true Divine nature, from Divinity defined as each one of us.
The word “behold” means much more than to just look at or regard. It is from an old English word, which means “to keep” or to hold. So when we behold our own beauty, we want to keep or hold on to that energy of ourselves that expresses beauty. Our culture does not really encourage this kind of understanding of beauty, but at the retreat this weekend, we really explored the true nature of beauty and deepened our experience and understanding of beauty.
One of the activities was to share some quotations about beauty to explore what we hear and read about it. Here are some of the favorites:
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye. – Miss Piggy, The Muppets
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Beauty isn’t worth thinking about; what’s important is your mind. You don’t want a fifty-dollar haircut on a fifty-cent head. – Garrison Keillor
People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. – Khalil Gibran
The consistent theme is that we have to be clear in our perceptions in order to see the beauty that is there. In the May 7th reading from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, he describes going to visit his 94 year old grandmother on a beautiful sunny day. For her, stuck in one room for 8 months, it was a gray day. He realized that the one window had not been cleaned for almost a year. His grandmother replied, “Got a dirty eye, see a dirty world.” Nepo continues, “It is the same with our minds and hearts. For our very self is the one window we have into this life. And so often we suffer the mood of a dirty window, believing the whole world gray. Perhaps the purpose of authentic relationship is to help keep our minds and hearts clear. Perhaps inner work is the ordinary art of window washing so that the day is fully the day.”
As we reflected on this, we realized that there are blocks to beauty, which keep our windows very cloudy and prevent us from beholding our own beauty. Now those folks who attended the retreat no longer have these blocks because of the retreat….make sure YOU sign up for next year! J But for all the rest…well here are a few which were identified by therapist Robert Augustus Masters: Do you
…overreact in certain situations
….numb out, freeze, experience brain fog or sudden tiredness
…face recurring challenges in relationships
….feel frustrated in your attempts to reach your goals
…get stuck in a perpetual rerun acting out the same drama again and again
…say you are fine when you are not
…work constantly to feel ‘positive’ about things
…watch yourself keep doing things you know are not good for you?
We all have some we major in and some are just minor, but in reality, we all have our shadow side and it holds a lot of power and energy. Being with it, loving and accepting it allows us to express and really see our beauty. The Chinese have a particularly interesting definition of the word “busy” which describes another block to beauty. Rev. Robyn will tell us about that and explore ways we can dissolve our blocks to beauty.
How often do we overlook beauty? We get busy, or we’re thinking about the past or the future, and miss an opportunity to appreciate something beautiful in the present moment. I think it’s interesting that the word “busy” in Chinese has two characters: “killing”, and “heart.” Busyness can restrict the heart’s ability to really enjoy life, and to experience the beauty around us. “Busyness” can literally kill us with a heart attack!
In our society, on television, in magazines, and movies, a very narrow definition of beauty is portrayed, often unrealistically with photo-shopped models. Often there is cultural conditioning to overcome, to see with new eyes, the beauty all around us. Gregg Braden, in his book Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer says that we often miss beauty “when we compare one experience to another. And we can plant seeds in our awareness that become the attractors to inviting greater beauty into our lives.” He reminds us that “Beauty exists and is everywhere present. The power to see beauty is a choice…it is an experience of heart, mind, and soul” (134).“Everyone’s experience of beauty is unique: whether you define it as a force, an experience, a quality, a judgment or a perception.”
Braden says, “the power of beauty is real. In its presence we are changed” (133- Simply put, beauty has the power to transform our lives. Braden writes, “We may apply what we do know about the power of beauty to heal the suffering, hurt, and fear in our lives” (134).
How do we DO this? We open to seeing with new eyes, the perfection in the “imperfections” of our lives. It reminds me of the Japanese term “Wabi-Sabi.” “Wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and depth in nature, accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death.” As one writer put it, “Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving-use leave behind.” Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.”
As writer and priest Matthew Fox says, “There is no end to the beauty, for the person who is aware. Even the cracks between the sidewalk contain geometric patterns of amazing beauty.” In a culture that values perfection, this may sound like a radical concept. But treasures await when we look for and find beauty in unexpected places.
When I lived in Paradise, California one of my favorite things was going to the Antique stores there, and look at all of the old “treasures”—the old school desks, wood worn of old furniture, rusted, lunchboxes, porcelain egg cups, iron trivets. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure. Nature also gives us opportunities to see beauty in new places. While in Florida, I was able to see manatees at a nature preserve. I’d heard them described as “ugly” animals, but I didn’t see them that way at all. To me, they were beautiful, and peaceful. And when I saw pictures of their bone structure, I felt even more connected to them when I saw that under their front flippers, they have forearms and fingers, JUST LIKE US!
Seeing beauty in unexpected places, can help us to see beauty in the history and nature of our own lives. We can come to appreciate the worn places, the cracks, the frayed edges: the old dreams, the hurts, the twists and turns, and perhaps see beauty in a pattern of strength, or see how it fortified our faith We can come to understand how something that felt so hurtful at the time, was actually a stepping stone to something better. Though we don’t always get to choose WHAT happens to us, we DO get to choose HOW we experience what happens to us.
As Braden says, “We can determine our feelings about what happened, and in this way, change even the most hurtful experience into life-affirming wisdom that becomes the foundation of our healing.” Sometimes things happen that crack our hearts open, not so God can get in, but so God can get OUT! We have this light, this love, this wisdom within us—this beauty—that awaits our attention.
When we acknowledge our feelings, and move through the shock and disappointment, and then come to see events that don’t look pretty, these cracks in our personal sidewalk—the divorce, the bankruptcy, the illness, the job loss—when we are able to view them as events that provided lessons, and wisdom, we free ourselves from the pain of the past.
Pared down to its barest essence, wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It’s simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.
Wabi-sabi is underplayed and modest, the kind of quiet, undeclared beauty that waits patiently to be discovered. It’s a fragmentary glimpse: the branch representing the entire tree, shoji screens filtering the sun, the moon 90 percent obscured behind a ribbon of cloud. It’s a richly mellow beauty that’s striking but not obvious, that you can imagine having around you for a long, long time-So now we have wabi, which is humble and simple, and sabi, which is rusty and weathered. It is the beauty in a weathered face that has lived a deep and meaning-filled life.
As you travel through life, may you awaken to your beauty and the beauty all around you! May you behold, and keep the awareness of how beautiful you are!
Love and blessings,
Rev. Deb and Rev. Robyn