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Relational Reflections: Yes, another blog, and this one’s from Dr. Nadine and Dr. Zan at True Heights

A Burst of Beauty

Dr Zan’s Thoughts:

“Fire go boom boom on my head!” That was the exclamation of my toddler 20 years ago when she had her first exposure to a spectacular fireworks display that felt way too close for comfort. She had difficulty taking in the visual appeal of the experience given the unpredictable booms and crackles that punctuated the colorful, sparkly light show. Fortunately, that initial distaste for the auditory assault that can accompany fireworks has dissipated, allowing for her full appreciation of the beauty that emerges. 

This year offered a new approach to the July 4th holiday that I hope will become a tradition. Our family gathered on an urban rooftop where we were delighted to witness multiple celebratory displays simultaneously as we stood shoulder to shoulder with others who would pause to gaze skyward and share the awe of this particular moment in time. It was a poignant instant that might well have persisted in relative peace and tranquility, given our distance from the noisy booms, but some of our fellow spectators were inspired to initiate a spirited “U-S-A!” chant. Of course, their choice shifted the mood in a different direction. Ah, group dynamics never cease to fascinate.

It occurs to me that there will always be distractions from the beauty in our lives, and yet beauty persists-- if only we can find it within ourselves to open to it or perhaps to shift our perspective to allow its emergence. Being distracted by the “booms and crackles” of life is part of our human condition. There is no shame in it. Yet, all too often we tune in sharply to that which startles and scares us. Then we remain in that startled and scared place when there is something colorful, sparkly, and spellbinding readily available to us. We notice every little detail that annoys or detracts. We remain annoyed and disappointed when we could make a good-natured adjustment-- perhaps make a choice to go with the flow. 

If we can consistently remind ourselves to seek beauty, even in the midst of genuine challenge and hardship, we will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised by the transformation of our attitudes, our moods, and our thoughts. While this notion of beauty seeking applies in many facets of our lives, think first about someone you love dearly and with whom you find yourself in a frequent state of irritation. Ask yourself whether you are focusing on the beauty within this loved one. Are you striving to see them as you did when it was easy to fall and be in love, due to the newness of the connection or the adorable nature of their stage of development? If you are forgetting to connect with the beauty you saw at that earlier point in the relationship, find a way to re-connect with that perspective. When you are in the midst of thinking about the beauty of a person or an experience, you are leaving much less space for fear, annoyance, or disappointment. 

This summer you may get the chance to see more fireworks, so here’s hoping you focus fully on the beauty!

Dr. Nadine’s Reflections:

I can hear some of you, right now, saying, “That’s a lovely sentiment, but…”  You find yourself filling in the rest of that sentence with the myriad of activities, relationships, commitments, obligations, responsibilities -- and on and on -- that provide constant daily distractions from seeing the beauty surrounding you.  I think Dr. Zan and I blog frequently about this theme of seeing the positives in life by changing your perspective because it’s one of the most singular and important things that you actually can do to live a happier life.  

Because we’re human, it’s so easy to drift off the course we set for ourselves, and before we know it, we’re in deep water.  And the scenery doesn’t look as pretty as when we launched from the dock. As Dr. Zan referenced, the most important example of this is in our relationships with our loved ones--partners, children, family members, cherished friends.  The relationships (and we) change over time, and what we found charming at the outset is often the very thing we come to despise. That’s why it’s crucial to look again with the intention of noticing more than the irritations. In fact, I’m suggesting that if you’re looking ONLY at the negatives, you’re seeing ONLY half the picture.  The positives are also there; you’re just not looking at the entire scene.

This doesn’t have to be applicable only to extraordinary experiences.  Here’s an “everyday” example: I really enjoy cooking. (Well, most of the time.)  I love cooking as an activity, not as a function of needing fuel for my body. I don’t want to come home from a full day of work in my office, and have then have to prep dinner.  So if I only looked at the effort involved in making a meal for the sake of eating, I’d probably hate cooking. It would feel like extra work to do at the end of my already-long day.  Instead, I focus on the beauty of the ingredients. I love the variety of colors, shapes, textures of the foods I’m using; I pay attention to the way I’m handling each of them; I enjoy anticipating the way the tastes will all come together to produce what will be a delicious dish for myself and my Dear One.

Actually, my real secret is to cook on my day off.  No, it isn’t work for me then. It’s fun. I view cooking on a weekend as nourishment for my soul.  I don’t rush through it, just to get it done. Instead, I’m able to enjoy all the aspects of it, because I’m looking at it from quite a different vantage point.

So you see, if you’re a “glass half-empty” kind of person by nature, you can train yourself to look at the positive qualities of almost anything in your life.  You don’t automatically
know to do it; you learn to do it.  And an unexpected bonus is that you can pass that skill on to those people in your life who feel like irritants!!  The more you focus on their beauty and TELL THEM what you notice, the more they will respond, and offer it back to you!  It’s a win-win for all involved.

Invest in noticing the splendor in your life.  It pays never-ending dividends. And you’ll be happily surprised and amazed at all the beautiful fireworks you’ll be able to see!!

#trueheightsconsulting #beauty #mindfulness #happiness

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