The Eye of the Beholder
In the third and final talk in her series based on Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer1 by Gregg Braden, guest speaker Donna van Oosten tells us this week that Beauty is the Transformer. But what exactly is a “beauty?” Merriam-Webster defines beauty as:
Beauty: 1. the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit; 2. a beautiful person or thing; 3. a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality.
When asked to define beauty, most people will begin with a description of something or someone. This is natural, and while much of what is considered beautiful is culturally defined, some things are more universal. One such example is attraction between men and women. In Judges, Chapter 16 we read the story of Samson and Delilah. Charles Fillmore tells us in The Metaphysical Bible Dictionary2 that Samson represents:
Physical strength under spiritual discipline, or consciousness of spiritual strength. The root, seat, or cause of this strength is understanding; also
The life of Samson, as given in Judges, represents the different movements of strength in human consciousness, and its betrayal and end. Samson did all kinds of athletic stunts, but was finally robbed of his strength by Delilah, a Philistine woman, who had his head shaved while he slept on her knees. Hair represents vitality. When the vital principle is taken away the strength goes with it.
But Samson is only half the story. He was taken in and deceived by the physical beauty of Delilah, a Philistine woman. Fillmore tells us of Delilah represents pure sense consciousness. Samson was not wrong to be attracted to a beautiful woman. Where he erred, metaphysically speaking, was allowing sense consciousness to take precedence over a higher purpose blinds one to seeing, or indeed even seeking, the Truth.
This by no means should be understood that humans are not to be moved by physical attractions or by any other phenomena in our nature. What it does mean is that we must put into proper perspective the meaning of sensual beauty, in whatever form we encounter it, is to be appreciated but not worshipped.
But as Merriam-Webster tells us, beauty is not merely based on sense pleasure. Beauty is also found in the “excellent qualities” of a person or thing. There is a well known book and film entitled A Beautiful Mind3. It is a biopic loosely based on the life of mathematician and Nobel Laureate, John Nash. While not wholly biographical, it depicts the life of a person whose intellectually contributions to the world of science and mathematics were so influential, and his struggles with mental illness and subsequent recovery, that his biographer described Nash’s mind as “beautiful.”
Donna explains that beauty is always present in all things. There is, of course, sensual beauty. As the life John Nash reminds us, there is scientific and mathematical beauty. But beauty is also found in pain, hurt, disappointment, and even death.
A few years ago, Donna’s niece was diagnosed with cancer. While she was undergoing treatments, her physical appearance and strength changed. But as Donna reminds us, that in no way diminished the beauty of the woman. Her spirit and her soul provided love and inspiration to her family and young children. As she became more ill, she entered into an experimental treatment program, but unfortunately, she passed away. There is beauty even in this sadness. Although the program was not able to save her life, what doctors learned from her participation may have contributed directly to improved treatments that helped others.
In Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer, Braden tells us of a conversation with a Tibetan abbot. The abbot explains that the outer rituals employed by the monks such as ringing bells, chimes and singing bowls, and the burning of incense create feelings in the body that help focus the mind on the feeling of prayer. When we allow ourselves to feel instead of think, we can recognize beauty. Braden tells us of prayer:
Prayer is Feeling – Many people in the West say “words” are prayer. That is not entirely wrong, but also not the whole story. What we feel, that ineffable quality within us, also helps us to navigate the sometimes rocky waters of the fast moving river of life.
Prayer is Hurt – We must walk into life and deal with it with the assurance of Trish. Wisdom comes out of hurt. To love, we must be vulnerable to pain.
Prayer is Blessing – The difference between angels of heaven and angels of earth is that angels of heaven remember that the are angels.
Prayer is Beauty – Beauty, wherever we find it, is a transformer. When we look for and acknowledge the beauty is all things, we transform the mundane to the sacred.
Prayer is Creation – What we hold in our minds, but especially in our hearts, creates our perception of reality. No words are necessary.
The Apostle Paul tells us in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
If we take to heart that we should pray continually, it is a good thing that no words are necessary. Not only would that be very difficult to pull off, but your family and friends might begin to worry about you (smile). That’s okay, pray anyway, and remember the wisdom of Rumi: The ego is a veil between humans and God. In prayer all are equal.
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4
This week pause throughout your day to notice beauty. This may take the form of the face of your beloved or child. It may be the a flower garden, sunset or colorful bird. It may be the sound of a laughing child, a symphony or your favorite singer.
Beauty is not limited to the physical. We can notice and appreciate the beauty in a person’s kindness, loving attention, and encouragement.
Beauty is all around us, we need only open ourselves to noticing. When you do notice, pause mindfully and give thanks. Rinse and repeat.
1Secrets of the Lost Mode of Prayer, Braden, Gregg, Hay House Inc., 2006
2Metaphysical Bible Dictionary, Fillmore, Charles, Unity Press, 1931
3A Beautiful Mind: a Biography of John Forbes Nash, Jr., Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, 1994, Nassar, Silvia; Simon & Schuster, 1988.