Ways to Enhance Your Experience of Beauty

It’s a Beautiful World!

Amid all the news we’re exposed to, remembering that it’s a beautiful world isn’t always easy! Yet there are many ways to encourage such a perspective of life. We can choose how much and what sort of news and information we want to listen to and/or read. We can cultivate hobbies and activities that nurture our senses and our appreciation of beauty. We can examine our worldviews and consider other possibilities (see Ways to Improve Your Life). We can revive the once popular motto “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless beauty,” in our day to day lives. These are but a few ways that I remind myself that it is a beautiful world!


 

Jim Brickman: Beautiful World


 

Watching the News

Remember: Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’, and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t. :))

Regarding news, it often doesn’t feel like a beautiful world as we catch up on daily events! I do feel a certain sense of responsibility to know what’s going on in the world…but I have also found that the more I look into something the more confused I seem to get! There’s just so much information available out there!! So I tend to read headlines and articles here and there and I subscribe to newsletters from opposing camps on issues to get both sides. I spend maybe twenty minutes a day on “news.” I get a little more active when elections come around in hopes of making an informed choice! But, I am not inclined to be overly involved with politics…so I know more or less what’s going on, I write letters now and then when I am moved to do so, I vote, and I concede that beyond that, there is not much I can do about global issues. Not in the usual sense of things, anyway. I do believe that my main contribution is about how I live in my little corner of the universe, making it a beautiful world in that little corner–I try to “become the change I want to see in the world,” as Gandhi said. That keeps me plenty busy!

VISIT THE GOOD NEWS CAFÉ SHOP!

So, again, to enhance my experience of it being a beautiful world, I do not let myself be bombarded with “news” in general–partly because I think the focus is generally too much on the negative side of events. But there are little pockets or havens of good news out there! Two that I look at often are HuffPost Good News, and the Good news network. The Good News Network is a newsletter that can be sent to your inbox, but after a free trial, there is a fee to keep it coming. I don’t mind supporting such an endeavor and enjoy having good news articles appear in my email!  I will say that I don’t always think the “good news” is good–for example there have been articles about steps being taken to avert global warming–which as you know by now, I think isn’t an issue that warrants action on our part…and some of the news in these sources are things I’ve heard about in regular news channels (namely AOL headlines)…but there is enough “new” good news in the content that I have not heard of to bring a smile to my face! There are also many many stories of good things being done by individuals in several books I know of—see Uplifting Stories for more on that. The message here is to consider limiting your exposure to the constant drama and handwringing that is the bulk of mainstream news reporting, and to increase exposure to news and ideas that demonstrate that it is a beautiful world indeed! I’m not advocating political apathy, but just putting worldly goings-on in perspective. Going back to New Thought ideology, if what we think on grows, we would do well to not immerse ourselves in negativity! This also relates to Gandhi’s advice on becoming the change we want to see in the world—if we want peace in the world, but constantly think about war and conflict and troubles, it’s hard to be peaceful…to be peace!

 

How often do you watch the evening news?
Every evening
A few times a week
On weekends
Now and then
Never
  
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Words that Nurture

The next practice to nurture your sense of it being a beautiful world isn’t so much about news, but ideas. As a gift, many years ago, I received a book, Sunbeams: Sages, Saints and Lovers Celebrate the Human Heart, edited by Sy Safransky. It’s a book of quotations and flipping through it, one is exposed to many ideas and statements that make you pause and go “Hmmmm….” Personally I find such a practice inspiring and redirecting when I get too bogged down in the world. Adding this kind of information to the daily assault of information is a useful practice. (Go to the home page and sign up for weekly inspirational quotes to get a weekly dose of “hmmm…”)

Have Some Fun!

Another way to bolster our sense of it being a beautiful world is to engage in some hobbies and activities that nurture our sense of beauty. This practice will obviously vary from individual to individual, so you’ll have to find your own ways to do this if you think it’s worthwhile. I will share some things I do and enjoy as potential ideas for you to try– if you need ideas!


Poetry can be pretty…I am friends with this author 🙂

The Wind Speaks

By Don Witsell

The wind speaks to us

Its gentle sighs and low murmurs tell us of our past

The birds hear it too

Their calls are joyful sounds  of affirmation

They ride the story to soaring heights, celebrating

The sunlight sings to us

Each beam a separate stanza in the song

Of life, giving warmth and love

The plants hear this song

Reaching for it

They seek it out and dance slowly, rhythmically

The sky recites poetry to us

The clouds offer lyrical verses

Ever changing, always perfect

It is there for all that hear

The moon and stars comfort us

They smile down upon us

Reprieve from the blackness, guide through the dark

The universe beckons to us

Telling us that all is in accord

Its complexities the masterwork of art

For those who will only see


 

its-a-beautiful-world-cardinal-at-window-feeder

One of my favorite ways to enhance my daily experience of beauty–something that brings beauty right up to my window, is feeding birds. It so happens that I live in a wooded area and we have a good variety of birds that come to our feeders (I’ve often wondered if such feeding would work in a high-rise apartment—birds are very adaptable and often thrive in cites?!). Their colors and shapes, their tiny legs, and how they flutter and fly are all quite impressive and make me smile! There are many feeders available at Amazon that have suction cups so that you can put the feeder on a window that you look out of often. It takes the birds a little while to get used to your presence, but after a while they might not even flinch if you move about inside–it’s very cool! My experience is that certain birds are less easily startled than others—the cardinals that come to the feeders take flight at any movement, but the chickadees only leave if you walk straight up to them! I’ve even stood right at the window, and the birds will still land and feed…so I am only an inch or two from them! There are some window feeders that have the one-way glass so the birds don’t see you, but they are rather expensive and not really necessary if you can be patient while the birds get used to your presence! There are also suction cup/hooks available at Amazon (and sometimes Wal-mart) so you can hang a suet feeder–this helps attract some different birds. Lastly, feeding birds does cost money…but you can lessen the cost if you don’t feed them continually–that is to say, don’t feel like you have to keep their feeders full all the time. Once they find the source, they will return to “check” even if it’s been empty for a week or so. You could also make some feed from “scraps” of food–stale bread, plain rice, cleaned and crushed egg shells, raisins, peanuts, pieces of fruit. Do some online investigating to find other homemade feeding ideas.

This beautiful world also gives us the amazing hummingbird–and hummingbirds are even easier to feed than other birds! Find an inexpensive feeder, and then just boil 4 parts water with one part sugar for their food. Let it cool, of course, before putting it in the feeder! I generally put a drop of red food coloring in the food only until they find the feeder and then skip it. You can buy hummingbird food, but the homemade food is quite adequate! Change the feeder once a week or so to keep it fresh. Use a window hook to bring these tiny and amazing birds right to your window! I’ve been feeding hummers for years and there was always this question of how long to leave the feeders up (I live in the southeast). There was a notion that leaving the feeders up late into the fall would encourage hummers to not migrate. I went to a hummingbird show, and decided to take these people’s word as they were experts…they said to leave the feeders up until you no longer see any birds…leaving the feeders does not mess up migration habits. These same people have an amazing DVD of a hummingbird building a nest and of the eggs hatching—the only one of its kind! I will add the link once I locate that information again!

it-a-beautiful-world- flowers-in-window-boxes

Flowers in Window Boxes

Another beautiful world habit I cultivate is having plants and gardening. Again this can get expensive or not, depending on how far you take it! Perennial plants are nice because they come back year after year–however their bloom times are less. Finding a little 6-pack of annual flowers (those that only last for the season or about 6 months) is easy enough and often costs less than $2.00. You can be creative with what you plant them in, if you’re not planting them directly in the ground, spending next to nothing or a lot! The splashes of color and texture these plants provide are a welcome sight; a gentle, sometimes fragrant reminder that it is a beautiful world; a nice little “surprise” as you go about your day–you do have to take time to notice and appreciate them, however! If you have the plants outdoors, they might even attract and feed butterflies and other cool insects…perhaps even hummingbirds. I never change the dirt in the pots, simply adding some as needed and using a fertilizer each time I plant to add nutrients to the soil. This seems to work just fine! Indoor plants, they say, help clean and purify the air–nice little bonus! Whatever you get, just be sure to read and notice the lighting and watering guidelines.


Life is good! 🙂

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.


Music Can Brighten Your Day

Music is yet another beautiful world practice. Again, preferences here will vary widely as far as what we find moving and inspirational and uplifting. I especially enjoy music when the beat or sound is moving and the lyrics are meaningful to me. Sadly, I find the lyrics in most songs shallow and/or based on a world view that misses the point. I still enjoy such songs if I like the music itself–I just don’t sing along! Or I change the lyrics as I sing! One good example of this is Rob Thomas’s Let’s See How Far We’ve Come–in it he sings, “I believe the world is coming to an end, oh well, I guess we’re gonna find out.” I change that to I believe the world is gonna be just fine, oh well, I guess we’re gonna find out.” I love the beat and music in that song, but just can’t join in with the sentiment! I understand that music is about evoking emotions and so songs about heartbreak and turmoil can speak to us…I suppose I would just say it’s wise to at least be conscious of what you’re listening to and to try to make most of it positive and upbeat if you want a positive and upbeat perspective. I have found some “God” music in which the words reflect my beliefs, but it’s not as good imo as pop music! Some Christian rock music I’ve heard is really good (e.g.Jars of Clay) and the lyrics sometimes fit my perspective, but other times, not! My ideal music moves me both melodically and lyrically….and there are songs out there that do that–each of us has to find what works for us along those lines. Looking for inspirational music is not to deny negative experience in the world, but to try to rise above it…Albert Einstein stated, “We cannot solve problems at the same level at which we created them.” Music, especially when coupled with uplifting lyrics, can help us do just that! Add a little listening pleasure to your day!

(the following song by John Denver is wonderfully uplifting in my opinion…gives a new appreciation of something as simple as sunshine 🙂 Link to it on Misc References page).

Sunshine on My Shoulders


Here’s a sample of music just being plain fun:


Art Can Be Uplifting

Still another way to enhance one’s sense of beauty in the world is by engaging in the world of art. Whether you decide to study or admire the myriad of works available or to indulge your own talent–or maybe just your own impulses, even if you’re not so talented 😉 –art and it’s attention to form and color and detail can indeed be uplifting.

This creative impulse seems to be more prevalent at a young age, but there has been a resurgence of late that has become very popular–coloring for adults. Just check out all the options at your local stores or on Amazon, and you’ll see what I mean!  I favor the stained-glass varieties myself 🙂

Interview with Kate Greenbank

Read my interview with Kate Greenbank, artist

 


Revive This Motto

The last beautiful world habit I will mention is nothing new. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” According to what I could find online this saying is attributed to Anne Herbert. What a wonderful bit of advice for nurturing a “life-is-good” perspective! I’m sure we’ve all experienced a stranger holding a door open for us, or helping us with dropped packages or whatever…it’s a nice little lift, isn’t it? For both parties! It’s like that Volkswagen commercial where one person does something nice and unexpected for someone who then does something for someone else…the whole world becomes a nicer place! I admit the senseless acts of beauty eludes me a bit more as far as how to implement…I suppose planting flowers and feeding birds might count as senseless acts of beauty….how about picking up the fluttering plastic grocery bag on your way through the parking lot? Picking up some item that’s been knocked off the shelf by someone else at the store? Bringing home some fresh cut flowers on a whim. Adding a splash of color or softness to an outfit. The possibilities are endless–some more ordinary or obviously beautiful, but each a positive action, each adds a bit of beauty to the day.

It’s a beautiful world whether we know it or not! So much depends on our willingness to see, our taking time to notice, our habits! As I’ve just discussed there are many habits we can develop or practice that are good reminders of the beauty that is available to us…and these are just a few ideas! So get busy and be happy!   

Below is a perfect example of a senseless act of beauty, imo 🙂 Wonderfully performed song!


 

Bonus: Something to think about…would you have stopped?  Read the story below the picture…

its-a-beautiful-world-Joshua-Bell-playing-violin-in-subway-station

Joshua Bell playing violin in subway station

THE SITUATION
In Washington , DC , at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes.  During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.  After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing.  He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later: 
The violinist received his first dollar.  A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly.  The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time.  This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously.  Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while.  About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace.  The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over.  No one noticed and no one applauded.  There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world.  He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars.  Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story.  Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ..
How many other things are we missing as we rush through life?
Enjoy life NOW…… it has an expiration date!

**There are a good number of counterpoints to the conclusions drawn in this experiment (e.g. not every one even likes classical music, so that would influence stopping or not), but I think the message remains–trying to stay open to beauty wherever and whenever it appears is something worth our consideration!

 


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