365 Days of Beauty

Your Invitation to Find Beauty in the Everyday, Week 3

Day 15 — And Yet

This morning I had to put my learnings from meditation into practice. I needed to stop, note, and have gratitude.

I had gone to bed frustrated last night. A video call with my mother had left me feeling both helpless and useless in tackling her needs, and we both missed one another since she immigrated 19 months ago.

I wanted to visit a friend at the hospital after the surgery she’d had the day before, but I had to stay at home to personally receive the delivery of my laptop. It only arrived at the end of the day and my friend had been discharged and was back at home, so I had to be satisfied with a phone call instead of a visit.

And finally, I encountered a challenge with setting up one of my software accounts and spent a considerable amount of time troubleshooting without success.

I went to bed frothing, my husband a blanket of tenderness and assurance. “You’ll figure it out in the morning.”

I woke up a soldier on a mission and when I looked up, I found Mars like a warrior holding its own against the bright light from the waning gibbous. And yet, a cool breeze caressed me as the sky got lighter, timid like it didn’t want to intrude, and gentle like the flutter of a mother’s kiss on the forehead of a sleeping child. Birds flew against the backdrop of a skyline bathed in the glow of the sun’s embrace and the fragrance of a new beginning hung in the air.

Indeed the day ended in a glory of color. On our way to the beach, we saw flitting flashes of color. Small birds I hadn’t seen before in vibrant plumage. My friend later told me they were bee eater birds of which we have a few species here, some permanent residents and some migratory. One of them perched on a fallen branch and I could take a good, long look. What a beautiful, unexpected gift.

And there was more. The sun was a rose gold orb, shimmering its goodbye to us, the sky a sorbet of peach, blueberry, and pomegranate.

Bee Eater Bird ©Anurag Amin

Day 16 — Emotions Don’t Stick Around

I was having a hard time — still. The day had started off well, but there was frustration from work and some, I realized left over from the day before. It was Andy Puddicombe’s episode on the Headspace podcast that alerted me to it.

“How often do you notice the end of a mood or an emotion?” he asked at the beginning. “As human beings, we tend to notice the beginning of challenging emotions…We are really good, we’re like finely tuned, dialed in, to noticing when the emotion begins. But we’re actually a lot less good at noticing when it ends. And we may think that that’s not important, but it’s really important because otherwise we fall into that trap of we think we feel a certain way all of the time. We forget that the emotion, the mood is impermanent. It changes and it comes and it goes. The more we can notice the end of these emotions, the more the brain recognizes that it’s temporary, so the less fixated we become on it, the less fear there is around it arising again in the future, and the more peacefully we kinda live.

So no matter what that challenging emotion might be for you…take the time to notice — make it your job to notice — not only when it starts, but also when it ends. It is not only a good way to better understand the emotion, but it’s also a surefire way to experience a quieter, calmer, more peaceful mind.”

‘How serendipitous,’ I thought. It was a curious realization: Even though I might know on some level that bringing the feeling to my awareness, looking at it, and seeing it for what it is — and understanding why it is there — is a liberating practice, it still escaped me.

And this was not new to me, but as Alain de Botton writes for the School of Life, we need to be reminded. “We forget almost everything. Our memories are sieves, not robust buckets. What seemed a convincing call to action at 8:00 am will be nothing more than a dim recollection by midday and an indecipherable contrail in our cloudy minds by evening. Our enthusiasm and resolutions can be counted to fade like the stars at dawn. Nothing much sticks.

There is a solution… Ritual can be defined as the structured repetition of important concepts… Ritual takes thoughts that are known but unattended and renders them active and vivid once more in our distracted minds. Unlike standard modern education, ritual doesn’t aim to teach us anything new — it wants to lend compelling form to what we believe we already know. It wants to turn our theoretical allegiances into habits.”

And I would benefit from making into a habit the mindful observance that a source of frustration is no longer relevant, and therefore the feeling itself too.

I felt better.

Later at dinner with friends over a heart-to-heart, there was a breathtaking moment, that intangible, undeniable moment of connection when in response to something I had said, my friend replied, “You make me strong.” It was a lump-in-the-throat moment and I was speechless.

Day 17 — Tranquility

Peace and tranquility this weekend day when the plan was just to be. My husband and I on the sofa, propped opposite one another, soft caresses and quiet conversations. Presence. Profound gratitude.

Day 18 — Torpedo

I went for an impromptu late afternoon swim and found I was a torpedo, piercing through the water, fast, unstoppable — and when I was done I was an explosion of joy.

Day 19 — Embraced by Solitude

I stepped into stillness this morning. Awake when the whole world seemed to be still asleep. Not a car on the streets of this bustling city. No lights shining through the windows, only the towers winking at one another in their last dance as night neared its end.

I was, not for the first time, embraced by the beauty of solitude, and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and stay there a while.

A few hours later I received a couple of photos from my beautiful mother: a selfie, showing me her glass of red wine, smiling, her eyes vibrant, and a cheeseboard for one. It broke my heart how much I missed her, but it also made my day.

Day 20 — Divine Nectar

I’m a savory kind of girl. My go-to choices for meals and snacks are usually savory, so I was surprised to find myself reaching for a persimmon after my swim instead of a savory breakfast. I’d bought three 10 days ago; one had ripened perfectly and I had refrigerated it the day before.

Oh, I knew the sublime experience awaiting me. A perfectly ripe persimmon is the nectar of the gods. It’s a divine experience. One that I would create an entire ritual for — in the tradition of tribes that consume psychoactive substances and transcend into other worlds and dimensions and lose their sense of self. That was me as I slowly savored each sweet morsel of this fruit of the heavens. I wasn’t in my kitchen. I don’t know where I was. I was in a trance. I was elsewhere, and all I was, was encapsulated in this sensation of the persimmon in my mouth and its direct connection to my neurons — and…transcendence.

Day 21 — New Beginnings?

Night. The end of an eventful day. More frustration at work. Some things up in the air. Some things stable, like the constant chorus of crickets. A lone car driving past, upstaged by the far more glamorous and ambitious metro train. A promise of progress — more progress.

Every night holds within it the seed. Of a new beginning. And that feeling is beautiful.

I wish you new beginnings too. I wish you beauty.

See you next week.

Sharing my appetite for life with you.