November 15, 2017

5 Ways to Cultivate Beauty as a Spiritual Practice.

I noticed a leaf hanging from a spider web—spinning.

I noticed the patterns of moving water, and soap bubbles changing colours.
I noticed sunlight though the trees.

All pretty ordinary moments, right?

And yet the experience I had on these occasions was one of utter beauty, as if I was hanging between worlds, cosmically enchanted, suspended in the moment—then a love river inside my chest burst her banks; a smile bloomed on my lips.

I later realized, in this moment, my inner and outer landscapes had aligned in total harmony, the objects of my gaze and my surroundings coupled with an inner state of openness struck a harmonious chord in my heart, which can only be described as true beauty!

True beauty is an expression of the Divine. It’s ananda (the bliss state) at work. What I was experiencing in that moment, watching the spinning leaf, the soap bubbles, and the sunlight was not at all about the innate aesthetic beauty of objects, it was a reflection of my inner world.

Duh! Took me a week to figure that out.

So then, if both beauty and bliss exist right here within us, what about those days when I can’t find it—when the leaf is just a leaf, the soap is just soap, and the sun burns our skin? What happens when the magic of the bliss state subsides, the yoga high wears off, the oxytocin love bombs have been pushed to the back burner, or perhaps even right off the stove?

The human who was so enchanted by a spinning leaf, can she also be okay with the hum of normalcy, plainness, and ordinary life? Can one sit with the distinct lack of magic and beauty, without trying to make something happen, without squirming about trying to make the ordinary feel extraordinary? I know it can be done, so why not make it happen again?

Here’s how:

1. Create a Beauty Altar

Choose your space; a tabletop or window sill can work well. Put on some music that uplifts your spirit while you collect objects that inspire beauty and go about assembling your beauty altar. Consider what colours, shapes and textures look good alongside one another. You might like to add pictures of people and places you love, art objects, sacred objects that remind you of loved ones or life changing experiences, or elements of nature. I have a shell for ocean, a feather for air, a candle for fire, and piece of wood and some special stones to represent earth.

2. Gratitude

Gratitude takes us straight to our heart. When we practice heartfelt gratitude, we connect with the impact of our greatest joys and blessings. By pouring our attention in to what we are grateful for, we drown out negative thinking and any sense of contraction we’ve been feeling. We become expansive and available to the beauty and natural abundance of life.

A gratitude Prayer for Mother Earth’s natural abundance and beauty:
“O Mother Earth, provider of nurturance, health and wisdom.
Guardian of the magical secrets of the Earth—
May I celebrate your beauty, wisdom and grace
May I find your wholeness in me.
Fill me with your divinity and vision to appreciate
The sacred feminine in all things.”
~ Mother Maya Tiwari, The Path of Practice.

3. Self Massage with Oil & Body Scrubbing

This is a wonderful way to honour your body as a temple. At a glance it may seem superficial, but when you align your mind and intentions with the action, self-massage (or body scrubbing) becomes a self-love ritual. Light a candle, set your intention (or use an affirmation) for self-honouring/self-love/self-acceptance.

To practice self-massage with oil the Ayurvedic way (ie abhyanga), lay a towel down on the ground and sit in a way you are most comfortable. Apply organic black sesame oil (if you are in a cool climate) or organic coconut oil (if you are in a warm climate) or any other nourishing pure body oil such as argan or jojoba and massage it in to your whole body. Take long smooth strokes to rub the oil in to your skin, using as much oil as your skin can absorb. As you stroke your skin give thanks for your body and nourish yourself with loving touch. Then hop into a warm shower (or bath) and just allow the water to wash any surface oils off. Your skin will feel soft and smooth.

4. Smile at Strangers

Spread the beauty by connecting with other human beings! Smiling at a stranger on the street will often inspire a smile in return. Be the one who shares eye contact and a smile, whether it’s in the supermarket or on the train. You might just make someone’s day—and it will surely boomerang back to you!

5. Random Acts of Beauty

Consider making beauty offerings in public places. Flower mandalas, yarn bombs, or chalk drawings are wonderful ways to offer a splash of colour, creativity, and joy to your community. Your creativity is embedded in your connection with the divine—so experiment, play, and create something beautiful for someone else to stumble upon.

Start with what calls to your heart, working from the outside-in (beauty altar) or inside-out (gratitude practice). May embracing beauty as a spiritual practice open your heart and life to the seeing and feeling the divine in all things.


Author: Kate Alexandra
Image: Sarah Gray/Unsplash
Editor: Jen Schwartz
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman

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