Six years ago I went through the crappiest break up of my life. I told him I loved him and 24 hours later, he dumped me. The depression that followed lasted longer than the actual relationship. At the time, I had not yet discovered the healing power of yoga, so I tried everything I possibly could to help pull me out of that deep darkness. Journaling helped some and I tried to find gratitude every day, but if I’m being really honest with you, some days it’s extremely difficult to find gratitude when you feel like your entire heart was ripped out of your chest without warning or any anesthesia to numb the pain. I would wake up in the morning and try to be grateful that I was alive, I had a roof over my head, a job to pay the bills, and a warm bed to sleep in, but, when that warm bed once held two bodies instead of one, it’s hard to feel anything but pain.
The only thing that truly helped was getting out of the home that once held two hearts instead of one and finding beautiful things in nature all around me. I would leave for work before sunrise just to take the scenic route and watch the sky burst into flames. I would stop at the vista lookout points, making me late to work, just to see the clouds, the fog, and the sun dance together to produce their dazzling show. When I would take the train, I would notice the tiniest flowering weeds along the sidewalk as I walked from the station to my destination. I found my head constantly in the clouds so that my feet could stay firmly on the ground, planted deeply in the moment instead of lost in my pain.
Since that awful heartbreak, I have cultivated a strong habit of finding and seeing all things beautiful. In my darkest hours, I might not always be able to find gratitude, but I can always find beauty. Instead of forcing myself to be grateful when my heart just wants to scream, “EFF YOU! I’m sad and I want to be sad and nothing you do will change that,” making myself feel even worse for not being grateful for the blessings in my life, I find beauty instead. In the process of finding beauty, even the teeniest, tiniest speck of beauty amongst the chaos of the world, I am brought back to gratitude. Finding beauty in my life makes me grateful for the awesome and amazing awareness that we have been gifted as human beings. We have a choice of where we place our awareness…in the darkness of our lives or in the beauty of our lives.
Today, my habit of finding beauty all around me is so strong that I don’t even have to look anymore. I see calla lilies growing amongst weeds in ditches along the road, I see fresh leaf buds budding from their branches, I can find beauty in the ugliest places, I can see the smallest of details that most everyone else misses. Recently I was at the beach with a good friend and as we walked along the water line, I stopped to picked up the tiniest sand dollar I’ve ever seen. He was shocked that I managed to find such a small beautiful thing amongst the seaweed, rocks, and litter and asked me how I saw it. My answer: I have perfected the practice of finding beauty every, I practice being present in that beauty.
So, here’s my advice to you when the depths of your darkness prevent you from seeing the light of gratitude: Find beauty instead. Go outside and get so present that you notice the color and texture of the bark on a tree (go ahead and give that tree a hug, too!) or the bright green veins of a leaf or the tiniest flower you can find in the grass or a dandelion growing in a crack on the concrete sidewalk. Let yourself marvel in the magnificent beauty of the Universe that surrounds you every second of every day…all you have to do is look.
Over to you, Bad Yogis: How often do you stop to seek out beauty? If you don’t already, isn’t now the perfect time to start? 🙂