Mindfulness as a tool to finding more beauty

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Mindfulness as a tool to finding more beauty

“Look, it’s so pretty. Mummy, it’s so green and colouful.”

Euan has stopped to look at a bush right outside our appartment building. It is coming into bloom and small white flowers, which are turning yellow, are coming out. It is mid-March and after a mild and sunny winter the days alternate between warm and spring like and cold, grey and wintery. Today is sunny, but not that warm.

In the moments before the flowers grab his attention, my almost three-year old boy had been whiney and grumpy. He was in one of those moods where he doesn’t want to do anything. The journey down from our 5th floor apartment to the park on the corner, was accompanied by a whiney, almost cry.

We are going outside because I hope some fresh air will do him some good. I wasn’t expecting that it would be the flowers that would cheer him up.

Is mindfulness just another way to help you notice beauty?

I have been reading (and writing: here and here) about mindfulness and how to enjoy being here and now. The reality for many of us might be that here and now is full of dirty nappies, and unwashed dishes and stuck in traffic or rude people on the bus. It might even be full of less mundane things which are genuinely hard to bare.

Mindfulness is touted as being a way back to the present moment, when we are distracted and unfocused. For me it has been learning to process the many complex emotions that mothering in a foreign country, has produced. Mindlessness is often just a way to escape the things we don’t want to think about.

Last year, I wrote in this essay about how journalling has been an effective tool for me to get in touch with the fear, doubt, guilt and at times anger, that have come bubbling to the surface in the days at home with my son. More effective than a gratitude list, or mindfulness meditation, which are both often quoted tools for counteracting the discontent of our busy modern lives.

But perhaps, what Euan was showing me in that moment when he turned from first-class-toddler-grump into happy-little-boy-enjoying-life, was the importance of nature. The vital importance of beauty.

Put Yourself in the Way of Beauty

I was watching Marie Forleo, on Marie TV the other day. It’s not something I normally do as she’s kind of annoying, but her guest was Cheryl Strayed. She was talking about being a writer. I’ll embed the video at the end of the post, it is well worth watching.

She talks about her book Wild, which I read last year. The book is about her hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, with a backpack she can barely carry and no knowledge of hiking. But it is really about her process to come to terms with her mother’s death and the break up of her marriage.

How do you carry on when life hands to you things that seem impossible to bear, she asks. Her answer is that there will always be beauty. And you can see the quote from the book to the left.

Why do writers write, poets poet and painters paint?

Life will always be hard but there will always be beauty.

 

Beauty is essential, not an afterthought

In our face-paced, urban existence beauty can seem frivolous. The urban environment in Japan is often ugly. Powercables strewn everywhere, houses packed tightly into every available space, and concrete everywhere. Coming from semi-rural England it always struck me that even so-called beauty spots in Japan will be paved and there’s a vending machine in easy reach.

There was an article some years ago about how many Japanese children had never seen a sunset. The highrise buildings and life spent indoors get in the way. But even when they are outdoors I see children playing on handheld Nintendos rather than enjoying their surroundings.

And before it sounds like Japan-bashing, I doubt it is a Japan only problem. My point is that even when we are surrounded by nature, we don’t always see it. You have to see sunset before you can allow it to remind you what it means to be alive.

 

Watch Cheryl Strayed below, or click here to buy Wild:

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