And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?
And have you too finally figured out what beauty is for?
And have you changed your life?
From The Swan by Mary Oliver
How to Become an Active Beauty Seeker
The other day, I wanted to read a poem by Mary Oliver to my yoga class, as I am prone to do being a poetry addict. I couldn’t find it. I was looking for Wild Geese, one of my favorites. Instead, I said the first line from memory:
You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting
Then, much to my delight, I kept going. I knew the whole thing by heart. I guess I knew that I knew it. (Don’t we always know?)
That’s what we do with beautiful things. We tuck them away. We use them when we need them, in our bearlike way. We use them as fuel. We breathe them. We give them away. We remember them as long as we can.
Sometimes we miss them completely.
If we start actively looking for them, we will not miss them. Become an active beauty seeker. A beauty hunter.
Words do it for me. They excite me, the way they roll around in my mouth and the feel of them, the texture both shocking and comforting at the same time like a million smooth marbles. And if they are strung together just right, those little white Christmas lights of words make me close my eyes and wish them never to leave. That they would stay forever, there on that tree, lighting it up. And the moment would never darken, and the tree would never die, and I would never let the words escape from the safety of my mouth, whether they were spoken aloud or not.
They would light me from the inside out for the rest of my life.
That’s kind of how it is with certain words for me. Certain turns of phrase, poems, and sentences. They knock me out with weight, and I want to keep them as if they belong to me and not to the world.
This is what beauty often does. We want to claim it and make it part of us.
Our lives need beauty—relentless, unremitting beauty.
I was driving this morning to a client to teach him yoga, and I started to think about the five most beautiful things I saw at that very moment. I am not sure why. I was at a traffic light, and it was grey and cold outside. I saw a dirty purple sign for Donuts! and a beautiful blonde teenager with a sign that said Hungry. Please help.
These things struck me as beautiful right then, in that moment. So I kept going, kept looking. What else could I find? What rock could I turn over? What beauty could I find in all the wreckage?
This is the challenge: Every hour, stop what you are doing and write down the five most beautiful things to you right in that moment. Every hour, or as often as you can! You can also post pictures in addition to writing them down. Just connect in some way and find the beauty.
I can hear you already: But I am on the freeway. I am at work. There is nothing beautiful. I am watching tv. I am in a bad mood; I can’t see anything beautiful. I don’t have my glasses on. I can already hear the gamut of excuses for not seeing any beauty.
It’s there! Look! It’s right there. It’s here all the time. Close your eyes and see it even if it is not right in front of you, even if you have to dig into the well of your imagination, which you might feel ran dry of beauty a long time ago.
Here’s a line from a poem I wrote:
Beauty, unremitting like this, so hard to come by—
And yet it is everywhere, this beauty.
You can’t ignore something so beautiful.
Make your list and keep filling it up, and when there is no room, get a new sheet of paper and keep going and going and going. You will amaze yourself. You will find that you are actively looking for beauty wherever you are. No matter what. And what else is the point? What is beauty if not to lighten us up from the inside out and, sometimes, from the outside in?
I asked my tribe on Facebook what their five most beautiful things are, and here are some of their responses:
Kelly Eckert The sound of a robin singing in the rain, occasionally punctuated by the sound of the wind in the trees. Breathing deeply. My husband’s typing. My son’s face. My daughter’s smile.
Paul Teodo My dad is retiring today after running hospitals and drug treatment centers for the past 35 years. He worked his ass off to try and make a difference in people’s lives and provided my brother and I with a lot. Now he is finally taking some time for himself. He is 62 and in great health and spirits. I get to see him tomorrow in Nashville, TN.
Kira J Pullig The ocean. My parents’ 45 years of marriage. The human spirit’s capacity for healing. Flowers. Silence.
Christina Collazo Cathey The cloudless sky above me, my caffeine buzz, my daughter humming a tune, my creativity surging through my veins (oh wait, is that caffeine?), and my heart beating in Love. 🙂
Alli Akard in this very moment…the sound of my kids playing, the smell of my lunch and its taste of pure nourishment, the site of the trees rustling in the breeze and the sunshine on my face. Beautifully simple.
M’Le Leach At this moment, my dog who is sleeping next to me, my boyfriend (who I know must be having a rough day), my yoga practice, the love and support I get from my friends and family, and the sunshine that hasn’t been seen in a week. 🙂
Katie Chatzopoulos The smile on my niece’s face. The roof over my head. The water in my cup. The clothes on my back. The peace in my heart that the storm is passed.
Chrissy Santa Maria My teacup, all my friends, my family, life, restaurants that deliver.
Daisy Lane 1. My children eating corn on the cob! 2. The leaves falling from the trees in my yard. 3. The jazz music playing from the “Maxie with Moxie” playlist 4. The Reese’s from the plastic pumpkin candy holder on the counter. 5. The Boston Center for Adult Education catalog I’m looking through—so many offerings!
Michelle Mendoza My autistic daughter making direct and penetrating eye contact with me and signing “I love you.” That’s pretty much 1-5 for me! 🙂
Liz Vartanian 5 most beautiful things RIGHT NOW: 1) my sweet 3-week-old breastfeeding 2) homemade vanilla extract and jam 3) down-dogging dogs 4) the beauty mid-80s day out 5) the moment of meditation when all is quiet for two minutes in the house 🙂 <3 xo
Respect the Rays 1. how quiet it is in my house right now…I can hear my breath. 2. my 3 children 3. hearing the word BENIGN 4. seeing an upside down rainbow and capturing it on “film” 5. my gratitude I feel about getting to go to yoga today.
Rachel Pastiloff 1. My kids 2. my new favorite book Life Is a Verb by Patti Digh 3. The amazing colors of the fall trees in my backyard in Georgia 4. The amazing clouds in the sky before a storm (the really big fluffy ones) 5. My father’s headstone (I know that seems strange, but it is the most beautiful thing in the world to me)
Anna Sidoti just five? I could’ve found 500!!
And, finally, here is my list.
Beautiful photo of my friend Yulady Saluti by my dear soul brother Robert Sturman. “Hello cancer, thanks for the scars. Now it’s my turn, and as you can see, I am a cancer warrior.”—Yulady Saluti (thirty-two- year-old yoga teacher and mother of six)
My friend Dani Orner, who is also my partner in a film we are making about body image. Beauty!
The messy overflowing pile of books on my floor and bedside table, all with dog-eared pages. Wild by Cheryl Strayed is one of them.
Ronan! One of my best friend’s (Emily Rapp) son who is dying of Tay Sachs Disease. Order her book The Still Point of the Turning World (Penguin Press). Her blog Little Seal was named one of the top twenty-five blogs by TIME.com
This sky. This is why I am going to Bali. I am chasing the beauty!
Why I Wake Early: No need to explain the beauty of Mary’s words.
What if we walked around looking for beauty instead of looking for things to be stressed about or offended by? What if we became beauty hunters? What if we told more beautiful stories? What if it was all we saw, even in the dirt? What if we trained our eyes and our hearts to tune into that which makes us cock our head to one side and close our eyes gently in an effort to memorize what we were seeing. What if it is all we got?
What if all we have are our five beautiful things?
I have heard my teacher Wayne Dyer tell this story so many times, but it always makes me perk up out of my seat and listen as if my life depended on it. (Maybe it does?)
Wayne Dyer used the example of the Holocaust Survivor Victor Frankl, who was able to mentally survive living in a concentration camp by finding beauty in a fish head floating in his soup. In a fish head, guys. You read that? A fish head!
*My goal is to make this viral! If you are on Twitter, Tweet us at The Beautiful Things Project @5MBTProject with what your #5mostbeautifulthings are. We can’t wait to share the beauty with you.
Share what your five most beautiful things are right now and please share this post. Let’s make it viral. What’s your fish head?
Jennifer Pastiloff was recently featured on Good Morning America. She is a yoga teacher, writer, and advocate for children with special needs based in L.A. She is also the creator of Manifestation Yoga® and leads retreats and workshops all over the world. Jennifer is currently writing a book and has a popular daily blog called Manifestation Station. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and take one of her yoga classes online at Yogis Anonymous.
Jen will be leading a Manifestation Yoga® weekend retreat at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in the Berkshires, Massachusetts Feb 1-3, 2013.