Using Awareness To See Beauty Everywhere
Most mornings, especially at this time of year, I leave the house before the sun comes up. On a clear night I get to look up at the stars and the moon – there’s no light pollution in the countryside where I live, and I’m greeted briefly by the infinite cosmos as I walk to my car.
This morning though, the world was blanketed in fog. And as the sun came up the trees were silhouetted beautifully in the haze, like some sort Chinese shadow puppet theatre. Atmospheric, beautiful, the shadows in the fog made everything seem like a miniature diorama, and I found myself alone with the sound of my breathing and the gravel underfoot, the noises deadened and brought closer by the dense air.
This kind of atmosphere, which highlights our senses by distorting sound and vision, in which we can taste the moisture in the air and feel it cool and refreshing against our skin, brings our awareness into sharp relief. We find ourselves tuning in to how it is to be in this environment, what it sounds like, the sensations of being here, right now. We revel in the luxury of our senses just as we revel in the sound our shoes make as they crunch through the snow in winter, or the temperature of the sand between our toes on a beach holiday.
When we are taken out of the ordinary, the mundane and the day-to-day, our awareness is heightened, and it becomes an exercise in being, whether we realise it or not. But this so easily dissolves again when things return to normal, or when things become familiar.
I have a fascination with Scandinavian spatulas because, while incredibly ordinary to anyone from Scandinavia, during my stays there they were something I found to just a bit different to the ones we use back home – and therefore interesting. Whenever we travel abroad, my wife insists on a visit to a supermarket in our destination country, so she can marvel at things which are the same, but different. Breakfast cereals in foreign languages. Strange flavours of soup. Local people must think us strange.
When we think of the Inuit peoples, we imagine how amazing it must be to dress in furs, catch fish through holes in the ice, and travel across the frozen tundra on sleds pulled by dogs. When we think of the nomadic desert tribes, images are conjured up of camel trains and flowing robes and golden sands as far as the eye can see. Yet for all these people, their lives are very ordinary. What seems unusual and amazing to us may seem very humdrum to them.
To us, ways of being that are different to our own can seem strange and wonderful, unless we are of a mindset that sees the unusual as a threat. Yet the things that we see in our lives, that we walk past and do every day so easily become uninteresting and bland. An Inuk or Bedouin, though, might find our worlds and lives fascinating and magical.
When our awareness is transformed by fog or by snow, or heightened by travel, we get glimpses of that magic. And if we engage in meditation to exercise our focus and turn all our activities into actions of intent, we can recapture that magic by using our awareness as a tool. Just as the Japanese tea ceremony focuses on the details of making and very ordinary hot drink and thus transforms it into a very special artform, we can make the normality of our day-to-day special each time we engage with it.
Every day our life can be a work of art. Every moment can seem special and new. Every detail laden with beauty, interesting and unusual, if we use our awareness like a magnifying glass to transform our world and ourselves. Our work becomes interesting and fascinating. We revel in the opportunity to do a good job. We reach out in kindness because we relish the thought of brightening someone’s day. We become conscious of the ground the we walk on, the air we breathe, the flavours of our food, and the textures and colours of the plants on our windowsill.
When we become attuned to our awareness everything is bathed in a golden light, and we become aware of ourselves, too. When we become irritated or bored or angry, rather than allow those feelings to influence our behaviour we head them off, seek out their causes and take away their power. When we become inspired and feel joy, we remember and treasure that feeling, and repeat it, grow it, nurture it, so we can feel it in everything we do.
The world comes alive when we break through the barrier of mundanity, when we are reborn with fresh eyes every day and take in its majesty. And even the smallest, most insignificant task, moment or thing becomes imbued with an electrifying, shimmering energy.
We can connect ourselves to the infinite in every blade of grass, every gust of wind, every ticking clock and barking dog. All around us is magic if we choose to see it. We just need to tune in.