by Jonathan Mead
Life is mostly made up of routines and patterns. Every day we act them out and they are what make up the bulk of our lives. Many of us live according to a socially acceptable template, within the realm of safety, while living repetitively and dreaming of ways to escape.
I used to revolt against these routines. I saw them as the enemy of adventure and of living a spontaneous life. However, I’ve found that routines can be quite blissful. I’ve realized that every day events and what we would commonly classify as “normal”, is often extraordinary if you just take a closer look.
I’ve discovered that even if you’re not exactly where you’d like to be, that doesn’t mean that life right now can’t be beautiful or enjoyable. And the best part is, you don’t have to do anything to make it beautiful. It already is beautiful.
All you have to do is open your eyes.
Seeing Things Differently
We are constantly surrounded by miracles, but we do not recognize them because they come to us so gracefully and seamlessly.
For example, have you ever thought about how many different processes have to be organized simply to create the experience you’re having right now? Imagine if all of that was a conscious effort. Imagine if you had to think about breathing, or think about listening to music. You don’t, it just happens. Isn’t that amazing?
Now multiply that by a trillion. Every breath, every movement, and every condition that’s creating the possibility for you to be alive right now is a miracle.
We often get inundated with our To-Do lists, or get caught up in the drama of things that aren’t really important. Realizing that beauty exists in every moment is possible; it simply takes a way of seeing things a bit differently.
Boredom due to routine is a creation of the mind. In reality, there are no ordinary or extraordinary moments. There is beauty everywhere. If you truly understand this, you can look at any ordinary object and find beauty in its existence. You can see a pile of rotting compost and realize that within that organic waste is the possibility of a garden of flowers.
I’ve found that there are a few easy shifts that need to take place, in order to create a state of constant awareness of how amazing life is. Most of the time we only catch a glimpse of how amazing things really are before we get sucked back into the monotony of our routines. We lose mindfulness.
In order to make awareness of beauty a permanent fixture in your life, you need to practice being mindful and aware. I don’t claim that practicing these principles is easy, but the benefits are worthwhile when we bring consciousness into our daily existence.
1. Practice Listening
One of the biggest blocks to recognizing all of life’s extraordinary moments is that we often don’t stop to listen. We’re too busy talking to ourselves. If we’re thinking all the time, we’re living entirely in a world of symbols. We’re living in a world of abstractions about reality; words that describe, label, and categorize things. This can be a wonderful tool for communication, but it can also be a curse when it gets out of control.
If we’re always thinking, we’re never in a relationship with reality. In order to become intimate with life, we need to listen. Imagine that every time you interacted with someone, you were the only one talking. There would be no communication, because you never gave the other person a chance to speak. It works the same way when you’re communicating with life.
Instead of thinking all the time and getting lost in your own thoughts, slow down and just listen. Put your focus on listening. When you find that you are drifting away in your own thoughts, gently bring your focus back to listening.
2. Practice Non-Judgment
Have you ever noticed that when you judge other people, it immediately puts you in a negative mood?
Usually, the judgments we make are because other people aren’t conforming to our version of the way we would live. Everyone’s values are different, and that’s what makes life interesting. While there are some justifiable judgments you can make, they’re still, ultimately, not worth it.
Compassion is a better vehicle for change than judgment.
The next time you’re about to make a judgment, try to practice compassion instead.
Let your feeling of needing to judge be a reminder for you to practice compassion. That way, your negativity will be transformed into peace.
Beauty is experienced through a state of peace, never through a state of condemnation. And yes, non-judgment also means to stop complaining.
3. Open Your Heart
If you’re like me and you’re pretty left-brained, you might be thinking, “Okay that’s nice, but how exactly do I open my heart?”
Opening your heart is a matter of accepting yourself and life as it is. It’s a matter of forgiving yourself and others. It’s letting go of all your resistance to the flow of life and the flow of circumstances.
If you want to take action to change something, that’s fine. But it doesn’t make any sense to resist what is already a reality. Surrender to this moment, accept things and people as they are, and your heart will begin to open.
Tips for Daily Living
What all of these things have in common is presence. The more you’re living in the present moment, the more bliss you allow to come into your life. If you’re always living in the future, always seeking something, you’re rejecting what Is – you’re never actually here to experience the miracle of life, right now.
If you can just practice these three things, your life will start to transform dramatically. You’ll begin to tap into your inner integrity and live authentically. You can’t live in acceptance and not be authentic. And if you’re living authentically, you naturally move into a state of bliss. See where this is leading?
The three practices I’ve mentioned above are the primary catalysts for opening yourself up to how wonderful life can be. There are, however, many other practical things you can do that will help you become more aligned with these principles.
Here are a few suggestions:
* Find beauty in the little things. It’s amazing to me how when I stop the incessant mental chatter, and actually just see things, I am blown away by how beautiful they are. The trees swaying, the leaves blowing around on the ground, the waves crashing on the shore. The simplest of things have the most profound beauty. But you can only see them if you’re really there. If your mind is brooding, if you’re off somewhere else, you’ll completely miss them.
* Embrace your artistry. If you think you’re not a creative person, I’m here to respectably tell you – you’re wrong. You couldn’t not create, even if you wanted to. Every time you open your mouth, every story you tell yourself about the drama in your life, is an act of creation. You’re constantly shaping, reinventing, and writing the story of your life. Once you recognize this, it’s much more powerful for you to see yourself as an artist, rather than a non-creative person. So the question is: What story will you create today?
* Live without limits. Some limits are positive and necessary (like speed limits), but a lot of the limits we place on our lives block us from experiencing our full potential. Arbitrary limits, like fearing to reach out to a homeless person or talk to strangers, restrict the flow of love in our lives.
* Realize that beauty can be found in the most mundane. Beauty is not always realized through a life-changing moment or a great epiphany. It’s not always hidden in a rainbow, in an earth-shattering orgasm, or found skydiving at 5,000 feet above the ground. Beauty is often found through looking into a newborn’s eyes, in the blooming of a flower, or in paint peeling off an old fence. It’s often where you least expect it.
* See for the first time. Sometimes we get bogged down in schedules and obligations, and we lose our sense of wonder about the simple joys of life. Just quieting yourself internally and opening yourself up to an experience can allow you to view it again for the very first time. When you’re listening to music, imagine that you might have not been born with the ability to hear. When you reach out to touch someone, think about how many people don’t have use of their limbs. When you observe your surroundings, imagine you’re seeing color for the first time.
* Live intimately with life. The next time you have a drink of coffee or tea, completely take in the smell and the flavor of the beverage. When you breathe, feel the air enter your lungs. When you walk, really feel the ground beneath your feet. The amount of beauty you experience in life is largely related to your level of intimacy with life. If you’re walking around disconnected, you overlook the wealth of artistry that is available to you right now.
* Make your passion a priority. It’s easy to get wrapped up in doing all of the things that we think must get done. Wanting everything to be perfect gets in the way of having time for the things you really care about. While the errands and things on your to-do list might be necessary, it’s important to make the things you love a priority. If you have a hard time with distractions getting in your way, make a specific time during your day that is sacred, where you only do what you really want to do. Maybe it’s an hour of Kung Fu or Yoga in the morning before the rest of the world wakes up. Maybe it’s 30 minutes of Mahjong before you turn in for the night. Whatever it is, you have to make it a priority or it will get lost in the vacuum of the minutiae abyss.
* Focus on the good. The reason still puzzles me, but we humans have a tendency to focus on the negative in events, circumstances, and people. We have a tendency to count our misfortunes and all the things that are lacking before we count our blessings. Make a habit of focusing on all the things you’re grateful for and you will open yourself up to experiencing the beauty of life.
* Give something away. I’ve found that the best way to reconnect with how beautiful life can be is to give something away. It doesn’t have to be anything material. It can be a compliment, a smile, or a positive intention for someone else. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give is sincerely giving your presence.
This list is, by no means, exhaustive. These are just the things that have worked for me. Experiment on your own and take chances. Sometimes a deep breath or a smile at a stranger is all it takes to bring you back into a state of presence.
It’s easy to get motivated to follow or chase a new provocative idea. Seeing the beauty in the “ordinary” sounds quite alluring. But like most things that catch our fleeting interest, our well intended desires get lost in our rush to get things done and keep up with the day to day business of living.
To make our perception of life being amazing a constant perception rather than a transient one, we have to slow down. It’s only through seeing the wisdom of slowing down, breathing and being present that we can realize how ridiculous it is to always be in a hurry. We may think we’re moving quicker, and getting more things done. But in doing so, we miss the point: to enjoy life now.
Only by slowing down and being here now can we make what we’re doing worthwhile. It’s in slowing down that we allow ourselves space to experience life more fully. We often go through life trying to eliminate and fill up space as much as possible in an attempt to “maximize” our time. But in the end, the exact opposite happens.
It’s through space that air fills your lungs. It’s through space that your body moves. It’s through space in the vibration of the air that sound is heard. It’s in the gaps between veins that blood flows. Without the space between these letters, there would be no words for you to read -it would all be incoherent.
In this way, you realize something…
Emptiness truly roars. Silence speaks. Space gives birth to form.
It’s in the gaps that beauty is found.
About the author: Jonathan Mead is a raw foodist, life coach, and prolific blogger. He is interested in unconventional paths to personal growth and advocates strange things like killing your goals. In his spare time he studies Jeet Kune Do and other ass-kicking strategies. He also wrote a pretty cool book, called Reclaim Your Dreams – An Uncommon Guide to Living on Your Own Terms.