Artwork by Annelinde Tempelman
Beauty is an innate value for us humans, that is, we are driven to it, or driven by it. Many of us seek it, whether we do so consciously or intuitively. We are even prepared to travel the world to find it. It can be a subtle search in Nature, or for a design concept, or it could be a compulsion with how we look and we hunt and gather products to adorn ourselves. Either way, basking in what we individually consider alluring is nourishing for our soul for beauty is an essential value in the ‘art’ of life. We cannot separate our desire to feel beautiful in our body from our desire to create a beautiful life. But in order to stay true to its meaning, let’s explore what is beauty really?
Rumi said: “ the beauty that you see in me, is the reflection of the beauty in you.”
Could he mean that every time we seek beauty, we are seeking to retrieve a part of ourselves that we have abandoned as ‘ugly’? Our society certainly does not encourage us in tolerating our faults, our weaknesses, our imperfections. Quite the opposite, it is very quick to point out our flaws and offer us quick solutions, band-aids really for how we look on the outside in the name of ‘success’.
Spiritual psychology, on the other hand, would have us work through what we would consider our ‘defects’ until we come to a place of complete acceptance. For true and lasting beauty is the radiance of our inner qualities:
1. our grace is a reflection of how aligned we are internally and how we move within ourselves;
2. our style is our ability to express the various layers and qualities that make up who we truly are;
3. our strength of character is the degree to which we can stay true to our inner point of reference and resist external ones;
4. and our self esteem is our ability to love and accept ourselves in relationship to others.
What about the old cliché about beauty being in the eye of the beholder; does that still hold then? We would each define it according to our culture, our education, our gender, our age… and in fact, our personal interpretation of it would also evolve with time.
Catherine Moullé, a French woman, an artist, and a Biodanza facilitator, kindly shares her understanding of this concept. Her first response is that everything in Nature is filled with beauty - be they mountains, rivers, deserts, animals, trees, flowers… and we as humans are an inherent part of this great beauty. We encapsulate it for as long as we work to maintain that equilibrium and harmony. That element of ‘je ne sais quoi’ is so evident in the faces of the older men and women who have lived in poorer communities close to the earth, despite their wrinkles, their missing teeth, their contorted posture. So what is it in them that is so enchanting? Certainly not age, not flawless youthful skin, not the perfect body shape; but perhaps acceptance, peace and a lifetime worth of an unsevered connection to the whole. Paradoxically, a life rich and filled with beauty is not necessarily one that is filled with ease and pleasure all the time. After all, is a stunning crystal not a mere stone polished in the river of life?
Catherine says beauty, for her, has to do with the senses, and with the heart. As a woman over 60, she does not relate beauty with her appearance, but with what she holds inside:
“I need to make sure I take care of myself, my needs, and I keep touch with who I am. I take time to sit down and breathe. When I am relaxed, I am in flow, I feel beautiful. And when I have that sense of fulfilment, it shows through my skin.”
She adds: “I believe our essence is one of love, of beauty, and joy so when we don’t realise those things on the inside, we crave them and we look for them on the outside.”
She shares a quote from Anaïs Nin, the French writer: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
What about beauty from the point of view of an artist, what inspires her?
Her artist colleague Sylvain Nuccio taught her: “your deepest nature asks you to express your most beautiful part.” But she, herself shares: “It is difficult for me to define myself in any way but especially as an artist. Artists are wild, sometimes I wish I was wild, sometimes I am happy I am not. Although I act like a rebel most of the time, I find it difficult to break rules and to let go. As an artist, I find myself looking for equilibrium and harmony. So I tend towards treating myself with gentleness and care and I use art to express myself, to be creative. It can very well be done through anything really, like cooking, like making a soup. Dancing is another way in which I express myself, I let go in a spontaneous, intense way, creating some ephemeral movement that feels deeply nourishing and enjoyable in the moment, not really caring whether it is beautiful or not.
A common experience encountered by art makers is the sense of wellbeing that comes from stepping into life with a camera or a pencil or a paint brush in hand. Seeing the world through the eyes of an artist ingrains the state of mindfulness as the default, and the search for beauty expands the senses and cultivates a resilience that is beyond any mental health strategies. It is almost impossible to entertain negative thoughts when you are captivated by an uplifting image. So it seems that when we speak of beauty, every thread weaves us back into a sense of soulfulness. Perhaps that is the point of spiritual practice: as we progress, what is achieved is a deeper and more harmonious alignment with the universal creative force and we become a more conscious, more active and more cooperative part of this ecosystem.
I leave you with yet another quote from the Russian writer Dostoeïski, shared by Catherine: “What is the beauty that can save the world? It is inside you: generosity, sharing and compassion”.
Care to explore your creativity in inspiring and picturesque locations in a playful way and with an encouraging circle of people? Catherine and Natalia are running a Picturesque Alpine Creative Journey 7 - 15 September 2019.
Details under ‘Travel’ on www.saffronrose.com.