July’s Playful Self-Discipline theme is Beauty, and how I might invite more of it into my life. One of the first things I noticed when I started thinking about inviting more Beauty into my life was that in order to have the experience of Beauty, I need to slow down enough to notice it. This slowing down is not only a reduction in manic running from place to place and activity to activity, but a mental slowing down as well. If I am frantically stressing out about some anxiety-provoking thought, I’m pretty much impervious to any beauty that may be around me. My eyes are then turned firmly towards the inside of my own head and it’s like the curtains are drawn to the rest of the world. Which is, well, not so great.
Yesterday I checked my horoscope. I take astrology with a fairly large grain of salt, but sometimes there’s a grain of truth to be found, especially when it’s served up by Rob Brezney. Like this one:
One of my readers sent me an interesting tale. He said the teacher Rudolf Steiner “once had a devotee who complained that after years of meditating and studying sacred texts he had not yet had a spiritual experience. Steiner asked him if he’d noticed the face of the conductor on the train on which they were riding. The man said no. Steiner replied, ‘Then you just missed a spiritual experience.'” This is a good tip for you to keep in mind in the coming weeks, Sagittarius. It’ll be a time when you could dramatically expedite and intensify your education about spiritual matters by noticing the beauty and holiness in the most mundane things.
Simply noticing is powerful. Mindfulness and meditation feel like noticing inward events, but watching for Beauty feels like an outward practice. Sometimes I feel like I put up blinders to the world, especially when I’m feeling worried, uncertain, guilty or stressed. This is especially easy to do in the grit and diversity of my city, because noticing means acknowledging.
Looking at the homeless person with the pet pigeon sitting on his head and making eye contact with him is noticing him. It is acknowledging his status as a person who is worthy of respect, and the fact that he is obviously in need of money and other resources. Noticing and acknowledging all that puts me in the position of deciding what to do or say if he asks me for money. I feel like noticing makes me responsible to act on what I see, and sometimes I don’t know how do to that in a way that feels healthy and good. Not noticing and not looking lets me walk away more easily, but with my mental barricades more firmly in place, closed to the Beauty in the world.
In order to see the Beauty in the mundane, we need the vulnerability and courage to notice it. We need to be willing to take on the experiences that come with letting the world in past our gaze. Making eye contact with a stranger can be an experience of Beauty and spiritual insight, even if it’s uncomfortable. Perhaps it is the discomfort of stretching that’s the source of spiritual growth and self-discipline.
Hmmm, I’m starting to see a theme developing here.