The Beauty in our Imperfection
Is there one tree, or one flower more perfect than another? You are beautiful just as you are. ~Jan
As we go through life, we acquire various physical, psychological, and spiritual dings, bangs and scars. At times, we might even feel “broken.” We might look at the world and others as see them as “broken” too. And yet, it is exactly from these hard experiences that we all have an opportunity to emerge stronger and wiser --- if, we can choose to see it that way. The Japanese art form of Kintsukuroi is the art of repairing broken pottery with gold or silver lacquer and understanding that the piece is even more beautiful for having been broken. What if we could look lovingly upon ourselves and our life experience in this same way, just the same way we look upon the Grand Canyon not as an unsightly gouge out of Mother earth but instead as a magnificent etching of dramatic rock and light formations? It is the etching of our experience upon our soul and then our seeing the beauty in it that make us who we are.
How do we make this shift?
Practice 1: Loving Kindness Meditation from Tara Brach which is like receiving a great big hug from the universe. I think it goes a long way to lacquering our "cracks" with gold. I have always struggled with meditation (which probably speaks to my need to do it :). However, after one of my Mind, Body Science classes, I became impressed by the emerging science showing the physiologic impact of meditative practices on the brain, our bodies and our immune system. But, it takes practice. So I am "in practice" too. Little bits every day. (As a side note, neuroscientists are finding that loving kindness meditation in specific helps increase compassion and so it is even being implemented as part of some medical school training!). With practice, I am finding it easier to settle in to a calm state. It is cherry on top to have modern science corroborate what the ancients knew from experience, yes, meditative practices are calming but they also have an impact on the body, mind, spirit ----regardless of whether I believe them or not!
Practice 2: Notice and Savor! This is process of re-wiring our patterned responses to the negative in order to to See and feel the Good not just the Bad in ourselves and also the world around us. How do we learn to see the positive in ourselves and in the world around us and not just the negative? Evolution equipped us with an immediate and powerful hardwired capacity to see the negative which neuroscientists call a “negativity bias” (Rick Hanson). We have a primal directive which serves to protect us so we can flee or freeze from from physical dangers in our environment. However, most of our modern threats are more psychological in nature and this danger-response mechanism tends to get into overdrive and not serve us as well. Instead we become flooded with stress hormones.
Neurologist Rick Hanson suggests that to counteract seeing only the negative, we need to create a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative for that positive experience to actually register in our brains. To do this, he suggests that we need to deliberately notice positive experiences. Then we need to pause, and reflect for 10-20 seconds on that experience. Really take a mindful moment to savor that sunset, or funny joke, or a happy hello, or yummy cookie. This is also the neurobiology behind gratitude practices which are also a mindful way of reflecting on the day for those things that we are grateful for.
In partnership with you every inch of the way as I practice too! Here is a reminder to pay attention to the beautiful small things. With Loving Cheers, Jan.....
Mindful ~ Mary Oliver
Every Day I see or hear something that more or less
kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle
in the haystack of light.
It is what I was born for— to look, to listen,
to lose myself inside this soft world— to instruct myself over and over
in joy, and acclamation.
Nor am I talking about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful, the very extravagant— but of the ordinary, the common, the very drab
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar, I say to myself, how can you help
but grow wise with such teachings as these— the untrimmable light
of the world, the ocean’s shine, the prayers that are made out of grass?