My yoga teacher keeps saying this after class each week at the end of savasana: "May you see your beauty so you can see the beauty in others." Each time she says it I feel beautiful. And I see how I'm more likely to see beauty in others. It's a flash insight, gone once I walk home for dinner, but it's an insight I give birth to with the help of my yoga teacher nonetheless.
A few weeks ago I finished Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul. I was drawn to many things in the book, but the chapter on narcissism drew me in in a particular way. I started reading it thinking - I'm not narcissistic but I'm curious about the quality and how it works in others. Moore talked about one particular cycle of narcissism, a sort of inverse narcissistic attitude where one is never satisfied with ones work, where your creative efforts never please you and even when people congratulate you or see something in your work that inspires them you're always shirking their compliment saying something like, Yeah, but I never manage to get... and I'm not successful because...
It did to me. I put the book down and realized I'm a bit of a narcissist in this way. Whoops. Crap. Never wanted to or intended to be that way but geez, there it is.
Sometimes when I make something or achieve something I can never be satisfied, never quite see my beauty in the work and in my effort. It's true in yoga class as well when I can't do a bigger, better pose and have to sit to listen to what I can do. These patterns can make me self-involved in a destructive way.
I realized that these strains in me are not self-generated. I wasn't born with this sense of deluded dissatisfaction. It's a part of an artistic culture (and also society) to walk around self-deprecating yourself. When I was in arts school it was embedded in the training in order to make me a better, more competitive, hard-edged dancer. It was the path to perfectionism and by golly, I was going to take it to be the best.
But I'll never be the best if I can't see my beauty. And I want to see my beauty so I can see it in others.
And I want you to see your beauty. I want you to come round to the qualities in you that are singing right now. Sure, there is shadow stuff. But beyond the shadow is the place where my yoga teacher and others are praying, chanting for you to see your beauty.
Watch those qualities in you that sing. How do they engage with the world? How have they changed your life or someone you love? What do they give rise to in small and big ways? Where in your own creative work is the shadow and where is the beauty? Where in your yoga practice is the shadow and the beauty?
Because seeing your beauty might also require that you see your shadows. To know one thing you must know the other. But know that in seeing the shadows you'll be that much closer to seeing the beauty.
Seeing is a quick process. Your eyes won't get stuck for long. They'll move on. Like seeing a bird in flight or your husband's smile, things move and your seeing moves with them. So don't worry about having to work or prepare to see your beauty. Just open your vision a bit to finding it wherever it lands and watch for a moment. And then move on with your day.
Venture into yourself and see. And as you see your beauty - here and there and look, over there! - you start to build the muscle for seeing beauty in general. And this is a good muscle to build, one that I'm building as I write and work each day. I hope you'll join me.