When you think of beauty, what do you imagine?
Evergreen landscapes. Glamorous people. Detailed art showcased in a world-renowned museum.
Although these are conventional visions of beauty, beauty is not limited to these scenes. Instead, beauty is omnipresent as it also exists in the mundane.
The lens of which I see the world is highly sensitive to beauty. I live on the belief that, there is beauty in everyone and everything, varying depending on one’s values and perceptions. Though this concept is subjective, I use it as a guide for living lightheartedly and navigating through conflict and stress.
I have trained myself to see beauty in every situation, obsessively attempting to capture it when it presents itself. I strive to reflect what I see and feel in a given moment through my photos (series 1, 2), poems, or stories (my frustration in this pursuit documented in the poem at the end of this article). The purpose is to show others that there is beauty in the overlooked details. I have concluded that if people regularly focused on the beautiful things, they can maintain a higher and more consistent level of happiness that permeates into every facet of their lives. As this is an art I have spend years mastering, I can vouch for its ability to free the mind from negativity and sorrow.
How do you train yourself to see beauty?
Build your lens by counting your blessings.
When you say something is “beautiful”, you are appreciating its details. Think about the details in your life that you appreciate. Collect them throughout the day, and record them in your mind or in writing. Note how it affects your mood and perceptions over time. By consistently focusing on the beautiful details, you begin building the habit of gratitude (for even the little things), and adopt this mindset as your primary filter for perception.
Capture beauty when it presents itself by being present.
Though beauty can be ubiquitous, you can only see it if you are attentive and open-minded. Anticipate its appearance by being present. This means living offline, indulging in the silences, and actively searching for beauty. This is difficult, because it is so easy to be consumed by technology, worry about the future, or ruminate over past events. However, it is through this practice where you start to feel a heightened level of happiness.
Reflect to see what you missed.
Beauty lives in the pauses, the gaps between action and reaction. Often times, we miss what is in front of us because we are mentally, physically, or emotionally preoccupied. In other words, when we are not present, we merely react to events rather than noticing its beauty in the moment. Compensate for this by reflecting on your day. Think back to when you were preoccupied and pinpoint the details you may have overlooked. Through this practice, you start to recognize beauty in its various forms.
The religious author Andrew Harvey accurately expresses the feelings of beauty in this quote:
“If you’re really listening, if you’re awake to the poignant beauty of the world, your heart breaks regularly. In fact, your heart is made to break; its purpose is to burst open again and again so that it can hold evermore wonders.”
You will know you have mastered this skill when you continuously feel heartbroken by beauty and its ever present forms — ironically balanced by a newfound joy for every waking day.
Capturing beauty as I perceive it is my lifelong, creative pursuit. Getting people to see what you see is awfully difficult. Here’s a poem I wrote in July 2015 expressing my frustration:
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
though the beholder can be as perceptive as she wants,
the world will never see what she sees,
they see a polished reality of which is only false to the special few.
the special few know what goes on behind her joyous eyes,
between the corners of her lips,
and inside the lines of her palms.
the special few understand the stories of
every mole, every scar, every imperfection-turned-perfection,
as they peel her façade with their soft words and fragile fingers.
touch her face and feel her smiles,
hold her hand and listen to her giggles,
hug her tight and lift her tears,
stroke her thighs and her past will pour with shame and painful sorrow.
the special few are not her whole world,
they are much more than that.
they are the glue to her fragments,
as they open her wounds and sew them together,
one stitch at a time.
never mind her screams,
for she knows what is good for her,
and understands what she needs to do.
she is not lost,
but vain and lustful,
to become the beauty in the eyes of the beholder.
This article is inspired by all the beautiful art I have consumed, beautiful people I have met, and beautiful experiences I am fortunate to have lived.
This article is also inspired by Irish poet John O’Donohue and his interview “The Inner Landscape of Beauty” on On Being with Krista Tippett.