The experience of authentic beauty, I believe, gives us a glimpse into Ananda- the divine bliss state. To know true beauty, our inner state must be in harmony with nature; we experience a moment of union and connection as we exclaim 'oh that's beautiful!'.
Being a creative woman, I'm drawn to aesthetics and I'm sure you are too. Colour, shape and texture speak to my soul! I love harmonious arrangements; the patterns of nature; a mindfully crafted table setting; exquisite handwriting; striking architecture. It all hits me in a place that feels like life is shimmering through me.
We are by nature, sensory beings, and the practice of yoga teaches us not to be ruled by the senses so we can get closer to our true nature. This led me to question whether it would be superficial to seek beauty as a spiritual practice.
However, given recent reflections, I am feeling energised by the notion that cultivating beauty can indeed be a spiritual practice. Note that I use Beauty as a broad term, which may be interchangeable with terms such as bliss, exquisiteness, deliciousness, connection and divine self-love.
Here are 5 ways you could begin to explore beauty as a spiritual practice to uplift yourself and others:
1. Create a Beauty Alter: Choose your space, a table top or a 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 alter. 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, elements of nature (for example I have a shell for ocean, a feather for air, a candle for fire, and a chunk of wood and some special rocks and stones to represent earth).
2. Gratitude. Quite simply this practice take us straight to our heart. When we are being grateful, we connect in with the impact of our greatest joys and blessings in this life. By nourishing our attention on what we are grateful for we drown out the darkness and any sense of smallness or contracted-ness we've been feeling. We become available to the beauty and natural abundance of our aliveness.
3. Self Massage with Oil: This is a wonderful practice to honour your body temple. At a glance it may seem superficial, but it's more than skin deep; nourishing yourself with massage sparks an attitude of self-love - the wellspring of inner beauty.
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 oil 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! Smiling at a stranger on the street will often inspire a smile in return. Be the one who gives people eye contact and a smile, whether it's in the supermarket or on the train- you might just make someones day!
5. Random Acts of Beauty: Something I've started doing randomly is making flower mandalas in public places, usually after I teach yoga. I'll go and arrange some flowers in a pattern. I know of someone else who makes art and leaves it on trains. And there's a local yarn bomber in my community who crochets around trees and street poles- it's so unexpected and... beautiful! Your creativity is embedded in your connection with the divine, experiment, play and create something beautiful for someone to stumble upon.
Got other ideas for cultivating beauty as a spiritual practice?
I'd love to hear them!