“Kindness and awareness work together. Through awareness we understand the underlying beauty of everything and every being.” ~Amit Ray
We were in Yorkshire—my brother, sister, and I—driving along narrow, windy roads. Sometimes we would come up a steep incline and be unable to see the rest of the road until we got to the crest. It was a little bit scary.
It could have been worse, but that night it was a full moon and even though it was almost midnight, there was a great deal of light in the darkness. We were not normally out that late but had been to an evening theater show in Harrogate, which was about an hour and a half drive from where we were staying.
My sister and I were playing CDs and talking to keep my brother awake, although between the bright moonlight and the difficulty of the route, I imagine sleep was the last thing on his mind! Possibly it was just knowing he was uncomfortable with that type of driving that was really motivating us to stay awake ourselves.
We were chatting about the day’s events and planning what we would do for the rest of the week. Then, as we slowed down and came round a bend, right in front of us was the shell of an old abbey. We appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, so we were truly surprised by the fact that it was there.
Gazing at it for just a few moments, the three of us were awed by the underlying beauty in the remnants of the ancient building.
Eventually we made it home, after midnight. All of us exhausted, but happy to be finding our way to our respective beds. As I lay there in the dark, I couldn’t help thinking how magical the ruins of that old abbey had seemed.
Maybe it was the moonlight shining through what was left of the priory windows, or the sheer height of the building. Or perhaps it was the unexpectedness of encountering it so far away from a town or village.
Whatever it was, as I fell asleep I remained enchanted with the picture in my mind—the image of that dilapidated abbey, which still retained so much of its original majesty and beauty.
In the morning as I meditated alone in my room, I started thinking about perfection, about beauty, and the obsession that seems prevalent in our culture today.
I wondered why so many people go to such extraordinary lengths to stay looking young, to reject any signs of aging, and to “fix” those aspects of themselves that do not conform to what is considered beautiful.
I thought about the magnificence of the abbey—that despite the deterioration, the building was still exquisite. I recalled that there in the moonlight, it was easy to see the graceful lines, the lovely arches, the grandness of what it had once been. Yes, the stained glass windows I imagine it once had were long gone, but for me it did not need to be perfect; its loveliness still touched my heart.
How much more true must this be for those we know, care about, and love? Does anyone really need to hold on to what time and loving has altered? Do wrinkles need to be removed, teeth whitened, or bodies lifted and tucked?
Surely the beauty of who we are does not diminish in the eyes of those around us, because we look a little, or even a lot older?
It’s not that I am against anything anyone does. I don’t feel it is wrong to try and improve your looks. It is more that I believe it is not necessary.
Through awareness, I have learned that everything and everyone has an underlying beauty.
For a long time I was very focused on beauty. I only saw beauty on the outside, was critical and judgmental. I used the word ugly. But with spiritual awareness, I now look at things and people differently. I have become kinder—more willing to observe from my heart.
I know that true beauty does not lie in perfection, or in only looking as young as possible. I have no desire to hold onto or create an illusion of youth. I am happy to accept my face, my body the way it is, knowing this is a natural part of the experience of living.
Here in my heart is the sum of the learning I have gained and the wisdom I have acquired, from all I have gone through. Here in my heart is the peace that has come from knowing myself, from loving myself. Here too, is the love I hold—the memories I have—for all the gentle souls I have known, who touched my life in the most beautiful of ways.
These days, what I see in those I know and love are not flaws or signs of aging, but the beauty that shines through—the result of tears we have cried, smiles we have shared, and the love that binds us together.
Though my eyes may take in what time or illness has altered, my heart looks with loving kindness at the person before me. And, noticing only what has always been there—a loving, caring, supportive, accepting being—my soul acknowledges and marvels at the underlying beauty of the person I see.
Happy mature woman image via Shutterstock