Beauty is a testimony to the sacred that largely goes unnoticed. Think about it. We spend our days in a trance like state. The mind habitually runs like a hamster on its wheel, trotting over the same thought pattern day after day after day. Over and over again we become embroiled in the intensity of our fluctuating emotional states, sun up to sun down. While our bodies crave, from one minute to the next - almost without respite - food, sex, or comfort. With all of this intense politicking taking place within us, it is little wonder that our attention rarely escapes it and that the beauty in which we are enmeshed largely goes unnoticed. Really, who can sit quietly by the crackling fire when the kids are clamoring for attention til our bones ache?
Mirabai frequently poeticizes about beauty. She is reminding us that the simple observation of beauty, if we can let it sink in beneath the internal politics always taking place within us, is a spiritual practice that can free us of our mental, emotional, and bodily habits. She is exhorting us simply to observe the beauty of life - to be penetrated by it - and to let it affect us deep down inside. Beauty, she tells us, can enliven the soul.
I recall one particular moment when I was battling cancer. I had received my diagnosis a couple of weeks earlier. I had gone through surgery and was awaiting the lab results - day after surreal day. It was winter. It was 2am. My wife was asleep at my side and my five year old son was asleep down the hall. As for me, my existential angst was running amuck. Suddenly my attention was drawn to the frost on the window pane above my head, which skewed the winter moonlight into a pattern that magnificently radiated throughout the icy pattern that met my eyes. Immediately the thought came to me: “Fixate on wonder.” So I let that moonlit frostscape became my meditative object. Within moments my angst was alleviated as I felt a conviction deep within me that regardless of my fate, we are held in Spirit's loving embrace. Death, I understand, has a place in the scheme of things - despite my inability to understand this. That night beauty became a testimony to the sacred that largely goes unnoticed...
From the Taoist sages to aboriginal people to Jesus, the mystics have always called our attention to beauty as a testimony to the sacred. "Be as the lilies of the field." How poignant and incredibly deep these teachings go if we do more than mentalize them. Fixate on beauty, my friends. Watch the moon tonight. Feel the air of these cool, late summer nights enter your body. Listen to the sound of the wind rustling through the tree leafs. Let yourself enter beauty. Let beauty enter you. Let your soul be enlivened.
We sit together,
the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
- Li Po