In the workshops and retreats I lead, a definition of health is always part of the conversation of the day. I feel this is essential because we have such limited time on earth to enjoy being in a human body, to experience love, to revel in nature. The healthier we are the more opportunities we have for these things to be possible over the course of the mere decades we get to have.
Often, in asking students the question, “What role does beauty play in your definition of health?” they think I’m asking about human physical beauty. I do understand the confusion since vitality can be clearly visible in one’s countenance.
But what I’m really asking about refers to the experiential and how much personal time is spent engaged with art, music, literature, nature, spirituality, or other meaningful things one would classify as beautiful.
Oftentimes, we don’t realize that a complete definition of health includes the integration of beauty into our lives, but it does, in a big way. Beauty fills a giant space in the core of human beingness.
On the flip side, as we age and tend to spend more and more time thinking about what’s wrong and worrisome, we further reinforce what’s broken. But how to fix and solve those problems comes only partly from the itemized solutions and goals we think up. The rest actually comes from allowing ourselves regularly scheduled time to just be with something profoundly bigger than our problems—with something beautiful that stirs both heart and soul.
Though spending time in “beauty” might not provide the specific solutions we desperately need for problem x, it absolutely creates the fertile ground from which creative solutions can be born. It creates perspective, it soothes, it reminds us that we are not here merely to struggle. Beauty reinforces hope.
Given the choice, why not go there? “There” is anything that does it for you.
For me, the natural world satisfies a lot of this definition involving beauty. I am mentally and viscerally
enthralled by the relationship between sky and ocean, and the constant fleeting change between them.
I took photos of this magnificent show last week over the course of 90 minutes, from about 7:15pm to 8:30pm as I hung out in the calm Gulf water and then from my chair in the sand. So moved and awed by these gorgeous natural elements, I actually sang, out loud (don’t worry, no animals nor marine life were harmed in any way).
However, what I feel is profoundly beautiful, and what you feel is beautiful, probably differ. What is it for you? The important thing is to know in one’s heart what that is. Conscious awareness is essential here in order to participate in the experience when it shows up.
While I love the ocean, I spend most of my time in Kentucky, which I also love. I’m enthralled here too, from my front porch.
I was acutely aware of everything good about this rainy day, the smell of the warm damp air, the sound of water, the flowers and happy birds everywhere.
It took just 10 minutes on the porch for my bad mood to be soothed after paying medical bills all morning.
I would definitely classify this experience as a beautiful one—I love a rainy morning in the summer, but it was Apple’s calm, sweetly quiet observing that made my heart melt in the midst of it. And all at once I felt a revelation about the simplicity of beauty in beingness. What matters most can be so routine and so right in front of us all the time that all it takes is some stillness and some noticing.
I’ve lived in my house for 16 years, and I work from home for the most part, I can’t remember the last time I made the conscious decision to sit out on the front porch with Apple during a rain shower.
So now I know. These occasions add up; they make a difference in the overall quality of a life lived. Near the end, I want to say that I lived a beautiful life. So I intend it now—I’m seeking it and living it—trying to make enough time for the nourishment of beauty in my definition of health today.
It must be working; I feel pretty good these days too.
I do plan to work on my singing voice now.