“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Lately my life has felt relatively void of beauty. Considering this is a blog about the quest for beauty in my life, I’m not overjoyed about this fact.
It would be easy for me to blame it on the recent changes in my life situation. When I started this blog I was living in San Sebastian, a beautiful beach city in Spain. I spent my days reading and writing in cafes, traveling around the country, and meeting new people. Then there was the architecture…How can there be so much beautiful architecture in one country?
Now I’m back home, and I spend most of my time in a routine, going to work in a small city and then coming back home. I may occasionally slip in some yoga on the beach or a game of basketball but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I have a bad living situation; but it’s a far cry from my life in Spain.
Yet in my heart I know my external situation is not to blame for the perceived lack of beauty in my life. I firmly believe that beauty can be found in any situation, as long as I’m willing to look for it.
So why have I been struggling so much then? Am I just not looking hard enough? Is this an issue of work ethic?
I don’t think so. But it’s possible I’m using the wrong strategy to find beauty in my life.
My normal approach to seeking beauty has been to wait for the inspiration to strike and ride the wave as long as I can. This was easy to do in Spain. The sense of adventure that came from moving across the world made everything seem magical. Not only was I surrounded by new and exciting things, I felt a sense of freedom being on my own out there.
Unfortunately, inspiration is a fickle thing, and since I’ve been back home it has rarely shown itself.
There have been recent glimmers of hope though. Since renewing my focus on mindfulness meditation and being present to the moment, glimpses of beauty have started to reemerge in my life.
It’s nothing like how it was when I was abroad; my rose-colored glasses rarely stay on for more than a few moments. But I’m starting to notice a trend: those glimpses of beauty last about as long as I’m able to stay present to the moment. Once my mind shifts back into thinking mode the beauty is gone.
I think part of my problem is that I’ve been looking at beauty the wrong way. This whole time I’ve thought of it as something that has to be sought out. But what if instead of going out of my way to search for it, I just need to change the lenses through which I’m seeing the world? And by that I simply mean becoming present to the moment.
One of the reasons I’m so enamored with being present to the moment is that I’ve experienced the power it has to instantly transform my life.
I can still recall those first few times I made an effort to observe my thoughts. It felt as if there was a dimmer switch in my head that I never knew about. For years I had been living in a dark haze of thoughts and emotions, believing that reality couldn’t get any brighter. But as soon as I took that mental step back and watched what was going on in my head….it was like I turned the brightness all the way up in my life. Everything around me – people, nature, even inanimate objects – became more vibrant.
In the brief moments I was present I started to notice new details in my surroundings. Music began to sound a little better. I could connect with people on a deeper level. When taking action I could get in a flow state much easier.
That’s the power of being present. And it’s only natural that in a state like that, seeing the beauty in the world becomes automatic.
So from here on out I’m shifting my focus.
Instead of worrying so much about looking for beauty, I’m going to first start cultivating a state of mind that can perceive it. This means focusing on being present in each moment. Because how could I possibly expect to find beauty in the moment if my full attention isn’t even on it?