I have been on the receiving end of great and moving acts of generosity, gifted by people who could barely afford to give, compelled by their desire to express their empathy for me in a time of deep personal grief. It was very hard for me to accept this, yet, to say no to the gift would be to say no to the care and feeling they wanted to convey.
You don’t need a heaving bank account to be generous, just a full and willing heart. Money is the least of which we can express our generosity with. We have our time, our presence, we can make physical and emotional space, we can give our labor, our good thoughts, our patience.
Generosity is a channel for what the giver intends to impart, as in kindness, empathy, solidarity and understanding. Giving is the most natural, fundamental declaration of the heart, it manifests love, understanding and good will. It is a striking act of great Beauty.
What are they ways that you express generosity and with whom? Have you ever been on the receiving end of generosity in a way that moved you? Does this affect how you give today?
I live with a cat who picked me up at the shelter. He is wild, skittish, and very sweet. I am not permitted to pick him up. Nobody is. Ever. We have two designated patting areas. The old easy chair upstairs and the big comfy couch downstairs. The door the the porch must be opened wide enough for him to pass freely, with no feeling of hurry up about it. He needs enough time to contemplate the riskiness of the venture. You must stand off a bit to the side so as not to loom unnecessarily. The planets must be properly aligned and the wind blowing in the right direction and then, and only then he will dart out to his beloved front porch. He is very affectionate and loving on his own terms, which I fully accept. We both understand each other. I provide him with steady grub, a warm place to bunk and a good head scratching now and then. And he, well, being a cat, he lets me. The fact that I understand him, and he understands me leads us to the beauty of having an understanding of each other. Everyone has their own personal private Rosetta Stone. Understanding helps us gently crack the code. This is where the heart recognizes and honors the needs of another, regardless of whether it all makes sense or not. Understanding is born out of trust, a knowing of all conditions and a complete acceptance of them. What kind of understandings do you have in your life? Are they silent agreements? Could they be formed more firmly with words? Do you have an understanding with yourself?
Radiance is Beauty that cannot be contained. Good health, some kind of mental balance and love are all wonderful sources. It is the glow from well being.
In a literal sense, radiance is the act of or point from which heat and/or light rays are emitted. Witnessing my garden waking up from a hard, cold spring, I’m feeling the value of this kind of growing warmth. Flowers have a special kind of radiance when they’re happy and have all they need.
Radiance expresses the spectrum of emotions that lay on the side of lightness and expansion, anything that opens up the heart. I like the idea of radiance as a verb. As in selecting a specific feeling to radiate such as kindness, generosity, creative joy…..
The dictionary gave me the phrase: ” To manifest in a glowing manner”. Which sounds like an amazing skill to have. What would you like to manifest in a glowing manner? Is there a specific feeling that you would like to radiate?
Commitment shows up as a pledge, a promise, a taking on of responsibility or duty.
Engagement. Attention. Perseverance.
Commitment can present itself as an obligation. What we’ve committed to has been entrusted to us, depends on us.
My dog created a surprising amount of work in raising a puppy. Especially coming from the perspective of someone who has lived her entire life in the company of cats. I was not fluent in dog when I took him on. His needs were/are simple. I just have to show up a lot , sometimes in ways I had not anticipated. He has a frank, unguarded look of enthusiastic gratitude that makes it all worth it. This is where commitment creates great Beauty. That look, and the bond it comes from.
Commitment also has a bit of an awkward alternate meaning of involuntary consignment to a nice rest somewhere away from people. This can still fit when you have to put aside what looks like good sense to hitch your wagon to your dreams.
Commitment like that becomes a duty of the heart. Your thoughts, dreams and ideas are so tender and helpless before they’re expressed. Your commitment is a matter of life itself to them.
What are your commitments, big and small? Did you choose them for yourself? Are your commitment seamless with your purpose, or are you sowing bits of resentment here and there when you meet them?
Kindness is a clear warm moment of Beauty. It lives in the same cul-de-sac as forgiveness, generosity and compassion. Each of these emotions informs the others.
Kindness is empathy in action.
Whether with family or strangers, kindness is always a choice. Standing in tenderness and consideration, it allows us to speak gently with our hearts. It creates for others what we’d like for ourselves.
Some acts of kindness are remarkable, even shocking and incomprehensible to some.The wonderful thing is that these acts have a ripple effect that expands the original intention endlessly.
Kindness can start at your very center, in the ways that you treat yourself.
What are the ways that you practice kindness with yourself? Your family? Your community? How does kindness affect you when you witness, receive or give it?
Fragility illustrates or suggests the ephemeral. It came to me how fragility and Beauty dovetail into each other when I discovered magnolia buds shriveled and clutched from a hard cold snap, still lovely in their own way even with their hopes for a full bloom dashed. Fragility can be a foreshadowing of loss. It is a reminder of our own soft spots, including our mortality. It can highlight the value or preciousness of a thing. It’s a Tennessee Williams delicate hothouse character about to lose her petals, always depending on the kindness of strangers. The dictionary tells us it includes objects whose lightness and delicacy of material require that they be handled with great care. This defines pretty much everyone and everything at some point. We all experience it, that’s why it’s so touching to recognize it. At best, it calls our attention to the fact that there are times when we can and should be very gentle and patient and kind.
I had a very clear crisp dream about an image I could make to illustrate simplicity. So here it is. Only it’s not exactly like in my dream, it seemed to want to do things of its own in waking life and this is what I ended up with.
So that’s how this week’s Beauty muse was selected, straight from my subconscious.
Once I had my marching orders I went straight to my trusty dictionary of course. There are more words there to describe what simplicity is not rather than what it is. Simplicity is the removal of all but what is essential. Whether expressed in design or philosophy, in form or thought, simplicity peels away all complexity and artificiality.
I start to think of vanilla. plain, papery muslin. The shape of an egg.
Simplicity is the basic integrity of a thing. A direct clearness that can lead to nowhere but clarity. There’s great Beauty in the natural expression of simplicity.
Wanting more simplicity makes you think of what you can eliminate or have less of . Letting go of in order to gain. A little bit of a paradox.
Balance is the point of grace in the middle of tension. Balance is equity. Balance brings good health. Balance can occur naturally if you’re lucky, or it can be cultivated with awareness. Imagine walking a tightrope. Balance and awareness, one feeds the other, step by step.
Balance demonstrates a harmonious arrangement or proportion, the perfect set up for Beauty. From the dictionary:
-A stable state characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.
This made me think of times when I’ve conjured opposing forces of my own in very simple ways to regain balance, as in needing something and just asking for it. Or extreme self care in times of stress. I’ve created pockets of silence for myself when surrounded by endless chatter. Connection to remedy detachment. Physically moving to release pent up mental energy.
I guess we’re all capable of self leveling. You just need to check if the bubble is in the center of the line once in a while.
Another lovely phrase from the dictionary:
Sounds like a calm, placid body of water I’d love to dive into. Some kind of clear, bright lake would be wonderful to go to when balance is needed. I can see it plainly labeled on my own map of personal sanity.
Patience is giving all the space and time and understanding that’s needed. I can’t imagine patience coming from a place with no love in it. Patience is about simply being here. Not just for ourselves, but for others as well. Having it is a profound and lovely gift.
I thought to write about patience as an act of Beauty because I wanted to have more of it for myself, my work. The slow, real time nature of sewing, painting, making things by hand, it’s a human sized pace that goes breath by breath and no faster. It doesn’t always compare too well with the half a blink speed of the digital realm where we spend a lot of time these days. You can get used to the feeling that any kind of completion can come with a few clicks.
From the dictionary:
-The capacity of calm endurance.
I love all these words strung together in the same space. It reads like a recipe for saving the world. This is one of the reasons why we urgently need more Beauty in the world.
I’ve been reading here and there about how hope is not a plan. Which seems right in some areas. Only, you do need to have some measure of hope to get even the smallest task started. Words like confidence and trust are used to describe it in the dictionary. My personal symbol for hope this time of year is the crocus. Especially when it shows up before a general green consensus is made, before all the snow even melts. Right when you’re quietly resigned to winter and more winter, here comes the mighty crocus, it’s small bud signalling time to hope for spring, for warmth, growth and all the coming pleasures of the season. Hope is about cherished possibilities. It holds our most sacred and tender wishes. It’s where the heart keeps traveling when rational thoughts and sensible plans pull off the road and find a room for the night. Hope can be a tiny spark or a steady flame. Rooted in and fueled by Beauty.