ESSAYS, ARTICLES, REVIEWS AND DISCUSSION GROUPS
Pathways Home: Celebrating Beauty in the Moment
by JoAnne Dodgson
Magazine #51, Autumn 2004
I once thought I'd find Beauty in fat-free yogurt and heaping bowls of lettuce, in Stairmasters and treadmills, in yo-yoing efforts to slim down and measure up. I even searched for Beauty in fashion magazines, mascara, shaved legs, panty hose, and too-tight-pointy-toed-shoes. I was thoroughly convinced that Beauty could be found in my closetfuls of clothes, each garment carefully selected to create optical illusions and camouflage the parts of my body which I feared rendered me unworthy of love.
I had once hoped to find Truth in the great Somewhere-Out-There. So seductive and slippery, Truth was a vague notion calling out from a distant horizon, just out of my reach, always around the next corner. How diligently I'd searched, running in circles and ending up in perpetual motion, blindly believing that all would be well, that finally I'd have all the answers, if only I could track this elusive Truth down.
But, I've come to understand that mirrors and measurements really don't speak the truth about beauty. It's Mother Earth and the Moon who have something to say. And the beauty about truth is that it's not Out-There, Somewhere. The truths I had searched for were right here all along, opening doorways and guiding me home.
Mother Earth embraces beauty with freedom from judgment. She has no fears about not measuring up. Dragonflies don't obsess about the shape of their body or the size of their wings. Maple trees don't attempt to look more like the pines. Snakes don't regret they don't fly. It's so refreshing to be in the presence of those who simply are being who they are.
My time with the trees and the sunsets and mountains has shown me that beauty is a feeling, a vibration. Beauty is embedded in experience and expression and connections with the soul. Beauty lives in the essence of each unique being, in all creative movement and forms, and in the enriching sensations of taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell. Beauty is there in the beingness of the lizards and scent of the sage, in the knowingness of stones and energy of the color red.
Beauty is a celebration of is-ness. Beauty is felt right here in the now, with no if-only's or should-be's or someday-it-might-be's. Mother Earth doesn't hide or silence herself, trying to conform to restrictive molds. Mother Earth reveals beauty that's filled with integrity and that lives in the clear, exuberant, unencumbered expression of being who you are.
Beauty sings out from the aged junipers and whispers in the ocean tides and bursts in the spring and honors death in the fall and glows in the moon and rains down from the hawks soaring by overhead and calls out from the mountains and howls with the coyotes and glistens in the shimmering dawn. Mother Earth's vast expression is a compelling invitation to explore and embrace the natural beauty that lives here, too, inside of me.
The light of the Moon has been a trusted guide to the beauty of womanly souls. The Moon speaks the language of the feminine spirit, emanating reflective, contemplative, passionate energy. She holds ancient stories in her radiant being. She resonates with intuition and the knowing of mystical, magical ways. The Moon glows in celebration of unfolding cycles, empowered by unwavering trust in her own transformation as she dances across the sky. The Moon is beautiful in all of her phases. She carries no judgments about where she is. Nor regrets about where she's been. Nor fears that she'll never get to where she wants to go.
The harmony and balance in the Moon's shifting dance invite me to honor my own natural cycles. The Moon offers me guidance in trusting the process of change in honoring the recurrent cycles of birth and death and rebirth in my own transitions and growth. In the light of the Moon, I more fully embrace my reflective, intuitive nature. My softness. My fullness. My passions. The Moon is an ever present reminder to be attentive to the Now, to be aware of the energy that flows within me and radiates into the world in all that I say and do.
So beauty is here in each moment. It's in the gifts of speaking and living my truths. And despite my diligent searching, it wasn't Out-There where I finally met up with the truths I so desperately hoped to find. These truths became clear when I refocused my attention, when I slowed down long enough to listen, to witness, to feel into what was right here within me all along. These truths grew into my awareness with the magic of awakening seeds who know when it's time to emerge through the humusy soil. The funny thing is this treasured blossoming occurred in a time when I feared I wasn't really accomplishing much.
It was all a rather unexpected retreat. The circumstances of my life were radically rearranged and I stepped back from my work for awhile. In this new time and place, hourly appointments, calendars, and clocks no longer structured my days. I had none of the familiar labels that had for so long defined me-—teacher, counselor, therapist, psychologist, program director, project coordinator, social activist, college professor. I couldn't rely on these respectable titles to figure out just where and how I fit into the world. There wasn't an office to go to. There wasn't even a desk in the tiny bungalow the three of us shared. When people asked, “How are you?,” I could no longer say I was busy or attempt to prove the value of my existence by describing all the Very Important Things I was scheduled to do. There was hardly anyone around who even knew my name.
Amidst the joy and wondrous simplicity of my life, my mind wrestled with questions about who-I-am and what-I-do and the meaning-of-my-life since I wasn't working at least forty hours a week vigilantly trying to make a difference in the world.
But as it turned out, it was without alarm clocks and deadlines, without rushing onto the next thing and trying to save the world, that I became vividly aware of all the time and energy I'd spent leaving myself behind. And so there appeared a remarkable invitation. To remember. To embrace my own soul. To get reacquainted with me.
It was in a one-room house with my beloved partner and our spirited dog where I experienced rich abundance. There I discovered the spaciousness of love and the vastness of being, within me and all around.
It was in wearing the same tattered clothes every day that I found out about freedom from pretense and costumes and relentless attempts to find love and acceptance through the lure of artificial facades.
Without television and newspapers, it was our spiritual journeys, the colors of sunsets, the sightings of quail, the baking of marionberry pies, the first brush of paint on a canvas, the songs of tree frogs and crickets, the connections with family and friends, the finding of feathers, the return of the June bugs, and the nights spent out under the stars that became the headline news.
With walks in the woods rather than workouts at the gym, with nourishing foods rather than diets, I contentedly settled back into my body in a balanced and nurturing way.
It was in visiting with ravens and lizards and trees, with mountains and rivers and rocks, that I felt my connection and reclaimed my belonging in the extraordinary web of life.
It was in easing the wars that waged within me that I contributed to peace on Earth.
It was in the space of compassion, for myself and for others, for all that is and has been and will be, that I found what it is that I want to share.
So, the truths of my life are there for the discovering, right here, in the song of my soul. The truths about me can only be found in the sacred space of my own remembering. And that's such a beautiful thing.
JoAnne Dodgson is a teacher, healer, and author of Gifts of the Grandmother. Her work with others is centered in the ancient tradition Ka Ta See, “living in balance from the heart.”
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