We as a species are adept at finding what we are looking for. We all know people who look for trouble and they always find it. People who look for something to complain about tend to find it 100% of the time. But what if we were deliberate in what we were looking for? And what if what we were looking for helped fill our lives with a sense of joy and beauty?
Below is a story about a journey that lead me to to to see beauty in everything – and how this experience shifted my focus on other things in life too.
Several years ago, I had a high pressure job and I was always in a rush. And even when I wasn’t working, my mind was racing. Looking back, many of these years were a blur. I was good at what I did but it came at a price. And then one day, it all came to a abrupt halt – I got laid off from my job and everything slowed down. At the same time, I had a toddler and I realized that while I had physically been there for him, I wasn’t mentally present, my mind too crowded to make space to live in the moment. This gift of being laid off showed me another way of existing that I really liked.
Not wanting to get caught in the same busyness trap when I found a new job, I wanted to do something deliberate to help ensure I was living in the moment, taking in everything life had to offer.
Typically the term “smart phone” is not mentioned in the same sentence with terms like “slowing down” and “living in the moment” – but for me, my iPhone was part of the answer. The cameras on modern day smart phones are astounding and able to capture incredible detail. Moreover, they have easy-to-use but sophisticated editing tools to make images come alive. Always having my iPhone with me, my goal was to find beauty in the otherwise mundane.
There is a path near our house where we used to walk our dog Holly and to most people it is a pretty ordinary sight, maybe even ugly (you see the backs of a bunch of houses with a rainwater overflow pond in the middle). Nothing here looks very interesting on the surface. But walking Holly, I would slow down, take deep breaths, and just observe my surroundings. I would listen to things like leaves rustling in the distance, I would be mindful to the smells and the feel of the breeze brushing past my face. And with my senses alive, I would look at everything.
This exercise allowed me to see the most incredible things – sometimes literally just under my feet. I found that beauty is often hidden in our everyday banal environments. On the walking path, beauty is sometimes found in how a raindrop sits on a blade of grass, how snow clings to a pine cone, or how a spider is spinning her web. To fully appreciate these, it helps to change our perspective or vantage point which can mean getting low to the ground to see a turtle eye-to-eye. But beauty is not always in the small details – sometimes that routine environment can surprise you if you are open to it as well – like on a particularly colorful Autumn day or when everything is veiled in an ominous fog.
The lesson I have learned is that beauty exists everywhere – you just have be be in the mindset to find it. And when you find it, a person’s humdrum, bland surrounds can become a source of inspiration and joy. The bigger lesson is that this shift in mindset can extend to all areas of life where with the right shift in focus, you can find kindness, hope and love anywhere. It’s just how we prime ourselves to take in the world around us. I once heard a speaker say, “Energy flows where energy goes.”
I would challenge anyone reading this blog post to pick something that is virtuous or beautiful or joyful that you want to fill your life with, and then start looking for it. You may be surprised at what you find.
The below photos were all taken in a relatively small space (see above photo) with my iPhone (and edited using the iPhone image editing tools).