The beauty that we care about is not actually the beauty that we have been exposed to most regularly, we are not inspired to save the world when we look at a high fashion glossy magazine advertisement. Yet, we are impassioned to save the world when we witness the miraculous beauty of an animal giving birth, or when we hear a melodious symphony of birdsong, or when we taste the exquisite explosion of flavor from a freshly picked berry. We care deeply for beauty that saturates our senses because we are reminded of our wholeness. We are that, that is us, we are the same. When we realise that we are as beautiful as a waterfall, a dragonfly wing, or a sunset then we remember the sublime precious worth of our life and the world we live in.
The Greek root word for beauty is related to the word ‘calling’, or to be called. Beauty calls us to pause and expand our perception to take in the wholeness of our reality. We spend most of our time in a focused vision, moving from one thing to next, without widening our eyes to take it all in. In our culture we tend to value only that with an obvious utilitarian purpose, which means that things of art and beauty are seen as superfluous extravagancies. But when put in personal context we all know that when we experience something beautiful we are touched in our hearts and can even be moved to tears. Beauty is the spark that opens us up and calls us into our more profound capacity for awe, which if you know this experience you will agree it is a spiritual awakening, even if just for a moment.
I had a moment of aesthetic rapture recently, on one of my daily walks up into the pines. My heart was thumping and my skin was beading up with sweat as I was met by the sweet balsamic scent of a eucalyptus grove. I paused, hands on my hips, lungs bellowing, I closed my eyes. And I started to cry. My senses were overwhelmed by beauty. As I listened to the gentle low hum of the crickets, the melodic birdsong and the sporadic moo of a cow I was overcome by emotion and I felt the tremendous inexpressible aliveness of everything. As I opened my eyes to gaze up at the eucalyptus trees and inhale their exhaled perfume I was acutely aware of the opulent effortlessness of it all. This is beauty. This is aesthetic rapture.
Scent and our sense of smell influences our mood and evokes emotion more than me may know. Our sense of smell is governed by our olfactory system. Olfactory sensory neurons within the nasal cavity are in direct contact with the outside world as well as our inside world, particularly our emotional center of the limbic brain. Therefore when a scent enters the nose it binds to the scent receptors of the olfactory neurons and evokes an emotional response. This is the science behind aromatherapy, where particular scents stimulate a particular emotional state. However, it can be a subjective response as we all have our own emotional associations with scents, what evokes beauty in one person might evoke nausea in another.
Our aromatherapist Bee has formulated a beautiful blend of essential oils that are specific for stimulating a sense of awe inside of us. If you have your own apothecary box of essential oils then try it for yourself in your oil burner or diffuser:
Atlas Cedarwood 2 drops
White Frankincense 2 drops
Sweet Orange 2 drops
Vetiver 1 drop
What can we do to cultivate beauty in our lives?
Slow it down. Notice what you smell, what you hear, what you taste, what you see, what you feel on your skin. Let it in. Be moved by music. Create ritual out of seemingly mundane routine. Savour your food. Chew. Swirl your tongue around your mouth. Massage your feet. Let your eyes widen as you gaze out into the no-thing-ness of the horizon. In cultivating a fullness of experience through our senses we enhance our ability to perceive and receive beauty. In tantra this is called ‘feeding the goddess’ because when you slow down and fully experience what you are sensing you are fully nourished and satisfied. There is no next, no later, no tomorrow. There is only the beauty of what you are experiencing right now, if you choose to open up to it.