When you look at a beautiful sunrise, sunset, lonely light on the water, a marvelously beautiful face, or a flower dancing with the wind – at that moment, you get truly connected with the world. At that moment, true happiness is unfolded in your heart. That happiness is beauty.
- Dr. Vasant Lad, Ayurvedic doctor and professor -
As the days get longer and the temperature steadily rises, those of us in the Northern Hemisphere begin to leave our winter/spring cocoons and enter into summer’s world of possibility. Heading to the park, to the beach, to a baseball game, we get the chance to connect with people and environments further outside our standard workplace communities and personal spaces at home. There are those who adventure outdoors throughout the year, but for those who oppose harsher weather, summer often serves as the time of year Mother Nature is revered. We pine for longer lunch breaks to sit on a bench or in the grass, soaking up the sun. Here in New York City, I find my friends and I enlisting each other to explore what free offerings we can find – kayaking on the Hudson, picnicking in Central Park, and catching outdoor performances.
As a child, my summers were filled with fun – no school, just play; maybe a swimming or tennis lesson here or there. Life essentially equated to freedom, to do whatever it was we pleased, so long as we were inside in time for dinner. I find that, for adults, summer triggers a great desire for the freedoms many of us enjoyed as children – a break from our daily mold, an escape from obligation, an entry into an emptier time and space.
Finding a balance between work and play can be challenging, especially if you live in a bustling city or are bussing your kids – or yourself – around to a slew of activities. It can be easy to complain about the craziness and continually look forward to the next break, no matter how far off. I too live in a chaotic swirl of events most of the time, yet despite that craze, I would like to offer the following view: that maybe such busyness, though sometimes overwhelming, can actually present us with the opportunity to witness beauties we wouldn’t otherwise have noticed.
By the time we members of the 21st century gain a break, our cravings for respite are so strong that we savor them like the creaminess and crunch of ice cream cones on summer’s hottest days. This savoring can lead to a greater awareness of our surroundings and thus, subtle discoveries regarding our environment, both structural and personal. What once may have been overlooked can become precious. Smaller magical moments that otherwise might have been lost in the chaotic fray may be magnified by our desire to soak up all that we can of our free time.
Open eyes, ears, hearts, and skin become necessary in recognizing and acknowledging fainter beauties. Dr. Lad (above) argues that these simpler moments of splendor that surface as we interact with the natural world and other human beings can bring much joy to us. The play of sun on the water, a child’s giggle can flood our hearts with sudden, simple happiness. We become intimately connected with our world in that moment. All else can seem to blur behind a potent focal point. Emotion can surge.
On our mats, we yogis often speak of presence – working to find that middle path of consciousness between the past and future, where we can focus on and witness what happens within and around us in this very moment, and the next and the next after that. Presence brings connection, and connection presence, just as happiness presents beauty and beauty, happiness.
What moments have arisen in your life this morning already, this weekend, in the past week or month or even year, on and off your mat, that have supported this connection between happiness and beauty? As the summer crescendos, could we introduce a practice of presence to our daily lives in order to more fully experience the gift of life we have been offered? We aren’t guaranteed a level of happiness as human beings, nor should we discount the richness of the ebb and flow of human emotion and experience, but perhaps more attention to the smaller moments could encourage us in life’s rougher moments. Memories of moments small or large, seemingly significant or inconsequential that flood our hearts with joy could be referred to when we most need them and remind us of the beauty that surrounds us – whether we notice it or not.
Maybe all these words meant to express the simplicity of beauty are unnecessary. Maybe what is most helpful to consider is the simple act of the breath. The inhale into the exhale that grounds us where we are and opens us to receive and absorb, maybe to act.
Wishing each and every one of you out there a beautifully happy summer.
- Liz Beres