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The power of appreciating beauty

appreciate beauty

“Appreciate beauty to become beauty itself” – Sri Chinmoy

I was struck by this aphorism. Simple yet full of significance. To appreciate goodness and beauty is to make it part of ourself.

There is much beauty in the world, but we can lose sight of this – becoming instead caught by the problems, darkness and fears of the world. But, the existence of difficult times makes it even more important to celebrate the good and beautiful.

To a large extent, the cynic and critic fall to a similar level as those who they are criticising. However, if we spend our time in valuing the beautiful and illumining, our focus and concentration will help make it part of ourselves.

The concept of appreciating beauty can easily be extended to other similar qualities. In particular, recognizing the good qualities of others will help us to strengthen these qualities in ourself.

For example, if we meet someone who has excellent capacities, we can react in two ways. We can become secretly jealous and try to put them down. Or we can appreciate their good qualities. When we value their good qualities, like a magnet, we draw these qualities into ourself.

Appreciation doesn’t have to be outer; it may often not be appropriate. But, to recognise the good qualities of others requires a sincere humility and openness; and it remains a powerful way to help to transform our nature.

What we focus on, we make part of ourselves.

Making friends with an old adversary

The hazel tree is an old adversary. Sitting at the corner of the garden, it casts a long shadow over the garden. The tree is no respecter of boundaries; it’s sprawling trunk cuts into four different properties. Though the tree might counter, ‘I was here long before your man made fences’.

Poor Hazel tree hacked by me.

But, as a keen gardener, I have aspirations to bend nature to my will – beautiful flowers need sun not shade.

Over the years, I’ve hacked away at branches to create more light. But for every branch that comes down – the tree continues its remorseless journey towards the sky.

For all the hours of sawing from the top of a ladder, and a big bundle of decapitated branches – the length of shadow has remained broadly the same.

The gardener in me fears the tree growing out of reach, forever plunging the garden into shade. If the tree was one hundred percent in my garden, it would be dead already, but it has been reprieved by its fortuitous placement within the no man’s land of uncertain border regions.

Late summer plants – part in shade

I knew something wasn’t quite right when before going out to meditation, I would look wistfully towards the tree – eyeing up another branch to cull. Continue Reading →

The person on the end of the phone

There are some irritants of modern life – call centres, canvassers, getting a parking tickets e.t.c. But, before we take it out on the person at the end of the line, we should try and put ourselves in their shoes for a moment. Given different circumstances, it could easily be us.

be-kind-be-all-sympathy

It is easy to get frustrated when we have a valid complaint but are put on hold for a long time. However, before we speak in anger, we should try and bear in mind a few things.

Anger hurts ourselves. When we get angry, we lose our peace of mind and later we will feel a form of regret. Like a boomerang, anger comes back to haunt us.

Secondly, the person who receives our anger and frustration most likely doesn’t deserve it. They are doing a job; they are the front person for problems elsewhere. If we were in a job dealing with complaints, we would definitely appreciate people who are thoughtful and calm. Continue Reading →

Economics and spirituality

As an economist and someone who practises spirituality, I haven’t often contemplated this combination of unlikely bedfellows – economics and spirituality

Economics or ‘the dismal science’ is a subject primarily limited to materialism and the wealth of nations; and so is rarely considered from any metaphysical perspective.

Self-interest theory

A compelling idea in economics is that of self-interest theory. Economists assume individuals seek to maximise their utility (happiness). This utility is primarily measured by consumption of goods, services and ‘leisure time’. The argument of classical economics is that by pursuing our self-interest, the invisible hand of the market helps create an efficient allocation of resources.

“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

– Adam Smith,(1776) Wealth of Nations, Chapter II, p. 19.

Adam Smith wasn’t quite the free market evangelist, he was later made out to be. He was a moral philosopher who hoped people would aspire to more than self-interest but gain happiness from altruism and thinking of others. He valued the golden rule of religious teachings.

“As to love our neighbour as we love ourselves is the great law of Christianity, so it is the great precept of nature to love ourselves only as we love our neighbour, or what comes to the same thing, as our neighbour is capable of loving us.”

– Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Section I, Chap. V. (1759)

However, his observation that self-interest could be mutually beneficial has become a powerful feature of economic theory. It is quite convenient for those who wish to justify their own pursuit of material self-interest. Continue Reading →

Taking gold to Heaven

A very wealthy man is distressed that he can’t take his wealth to Heaven. So, in his retirement, he spends many years praying to God – beseeching God to make an exception and allow him to take his wealth with him when he dies.

heaven

Finally, God responds to the man’s fervent prayers and says. “OK, in your case, I will make an exception – you can bring one bag of wealth with you.”

The man is jubilant and, when he dies, he has a bag full of gold bars placed in his coffin.

When he arrives at the Pearly Gates, he has a bag of gold bars by his side.

St Peter stops him and says “Sorry, but you can’t bring anything from earth into Heaven.”

The man replies. “It’s OK; I’ve got a special exception”. St Peter goes and makes a few phone calls, and comes back to say. “OK, I can see you have an exception, but I still need to check all your hand-luggage.”

St Peter looks in the man’s bag, and says “very good, but why did you bring pavement with you?”

***** Continue Reading →

Different ways of looking at the situation

We have all heard the phrase ‘There is always two sides to the same story’. But, according to Jain wisdom, there are seven different ways of looking at the same situation.

Dispersive_Prism

When light enters a prism, it splits into a rainbow of seven distinct colours. Seven different aspects of the same light. From one perspective, you may see only indigo – but if you move to the other end of the spectrum, you will see red or green.

If we see the red light, our experience is true, but it doesn’t mean that is the whole story. Just because we see red light, doesn’t mean that others may not be seeing something else. Also, when we see red light, are we aware that its source is pure white light? Continue Reading →

The beauty that remains

rainbow-wharfedale

Over Christmas I saw quite a few beautiful rainbows. Their short-lived transience makes the thrill even greater.

However as a photographer, I was caught between living the moment and trying to capture on film. The momentary arrival of a rainbow can come with a tinge of sadness that everything soon passes on earth. Part of you wants to hold onto the rainbow’s beauty before it slips away.

The world is in a constant state of flux. Everything is fleeting – nothing lasts. The rainbow exemplifies this birth and death – all within a few minutes. It lifts our spirits, but then is gone.

***

The sweet rainbow comes and goes,
But its beauty remains.

The dear sun comes and goes,
But its duty remains.

The faithful day comes and goes,
But its sound remains.

The restful night comes and goes,
But its silence remains.

Sri Chinmoy
– Wings of Light, part 11, WL-529

In this poem, Sri Chinmoy reminds us of the beauty which is everlasting. It echoes the immortal words of John Keats.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever”

We love the outer rainbow, not just for its unique light, but because it also – consciously or unconsciously – reminds us of the soul’s world and the inner beauty.

In the poem, Sri Chinmoy suggests we should not mourn the fading of the outer light because its Source is eternal. The outer beauty is a just reminder to seek the inner light.


Photo top: Tejvan (Wharfedale, Yorkshire, 25th December, 2016)

Spending less time online


My spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy is very keen on New Year’s Resolutions. He advocated both making a few personal resolutions and a few resolutions for achieving things outwardly.

In the past, I have been very poor at making New Year’s resolutions, but this year I am following one resolution, almost by accident.

In 2016, I spent a lot of the time wishing I didn’t waste so much time reading online news, opinion and comment. I would have a good meditation in the morning but, before I’d finished breakfast, I was back in the world of opinion and judgement.

It was like eating a healthy breakfast of fruit and oats, only to finish it off with a chocolate gateaux cake and cream. The point is you can’t lose weight by eating chocolate cake and cream, no matter how much fruit and vegetables you also eat. Similarly, if you want real inner peace, you need to meditate – but also be careful of where else you spend your time and energy.

The problem is that the easy accessibility of online news means there is a never ending stream of things to read. You start with the intention of just seeing the headlines, but then I found myself reading more than I intended. Time can pass by – you haven’t done anything productive, only filled your mind with more opinions.

There is an addictive quality to browsing the internet – a spare one minute appears in the day and, before you know it, 15 mins have passed. I noticed that it is usually when bored or unhappy that I often sought refuge in online browsing, but this didn’t help. Continue Reading →

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