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Julie Kent, Prima ballerina of the American Ballet Theater, recently reflected on the imminent ending of her three-decade long career. She once received a note from a famous Russian ballerina who attended one of her performances. The poetic and poignant note stayed with her and shaped the course of her life and career. One line said, “Someone once said that beauty could save the world. What a great responsibility you have.”

Only our hearts can measure the beauty we find through our social and emotional connections with others

In an interview for VanityFair.com, Kent reflected on the import of that note. She spoke of her responsibility in being a messenger of beauty through her dance and her belief that beauty surrounds every one of us. “It’s beauty in humanity,” she said. “There’s beauty in kindness. There’s beauty in motherhood, and beauty in forgiveness, and beauty in caring. There’s beauty in all sorts of things in life and it’s such a release and a reward for the soul to see it.” To be able to do this, she offered this advice, “You have to be a good listener, you have to be a good observer, you have to have a flexible lens to look at life in very small detail, and also step back and see a much greater, broader perspective.”

In our zeal to plow through our everyday worries and obligations, our thoughts are often focused beyond the present moment. The smaller details of life are left behind in the dust as we attempt to head off at the pass what we fear might be the bigger concerns of the future. A healthy lifestyle practice, however, will require, as Julie Kent suggested, a flexible outlook that attends first and foremost to the smaller, but vitally important, daily practices at hand. We must try to never lose sight of the beauty all around us. The laudable and exhaustive efforts we put forth by working, keeping a home, and raising our families often overshadow the beauty in attending to our personal daily health needs.

 

Finding Beauty in Nutrition

In an article titled, “How Mindful Eating Makes Us Healthier and More Fulfilled,” Carra Richling, the Senior Nutritionist of Ornish Lifestyle Medicine describes an exercise in mindful eating. Using one strawberry, we are directed to observe its vibrant color, its fragrance, its soft round curves. We slow down to appreciate how the sun and the rain nourished this tiny berry which now carries a storehouse of nutrients just waiting for us. The beauty of this little gem is then compounded by the delicious first bite, followed by methodical and mindful attention to the chewing, swallowing, and lastly, to the ingestion of its sweetness. Imagine the feelings of pleasure, satisfaction and satiety that eating with this degree of awareness could bring. Cultivating this practice over time will teach us how to be fed simultaneously by both the beauty of the form as well as the content of our nutrition choices.

Try this 5-minute audio Ornish Spectrum eating meditation.

Finding Beauty in Exercise

In his article, “Simple Ideas for Starting an Exercise Routine,” Phil Hardesty, Senior Ornish exercise physiologist, reminds us that we can receive a world of benefit from choosing exercise and activity that we really like doing. “If you like it, you’ll do it,” he writes, “So do whatever activities you truly enjoy.” Because we are often caught in the worries about particular health problems, we forget how beautiful, wondrous and resilient our bodies can be.

Over time, with patience and always under the guidance of a physician, our bodies can rebound from illness. We can then resume walking, swimming, or other activities that previously brought us satisfaction. Even chores like house cleaning and yard work can become a “thing of beauty” as we appreciate our ability to move and tend to our independent needs.

Be still for a moment and consider accepting your body just as it is right now. Note without judgment what is working well and what still requires more healing. Gently release any self-criticism that may arise. Proceed with acceptance, loving support and appreciation for the beauty of the life force and vitality manifesting in your body in this moment.

Related Video play

Take an additional 3 minutes to enjoy this centering practice video.

Finding Beauty in De-Stressing

By simply reading the forgiving title of Susi Amendola’s article, “You Don’t Have To Touch Your Toes To Do Yoga,” you can begin to exhale. Amendola, a Senior Stress Management Specialist, explains that de-stressing is more about “being” and not “doing.” Accumulated daily stressors can fracture our experience into what feels like countless unmanageable pieces. As the saying goes, “Death by a thousand paper cuts.” Gentle yoga postures designed for rest and relaxation can aid us in uncovering and recovering a sense of wholeness. A quiet mind is not a small gift.

Developing a meditation practice helps our minds to settle in and settle down, ultimately fostering a sense of peace and calm. The constrictive, myopic perception that stress induces gives way to a spaciousness filled with the beauty of compassion. Seeing others and ourselves through this non-judgmental awareness and appreciation allows us to observe and respond more frequently with equanimity instead of jumping to defensive conclusions and reacting with animosity. Through a daily, dedicated stress management practice, even though the world may continue to spin all around us, we will develop the ability to return again and again to that sacred resting place within of stillness, beauty and peace.

Finding Beauty in our Connection with Others

In the foreword to the book, BelieveArchbishop Desmond Tutu explains a central tenet of African philosophy referred to as “Ubuntu.” He describes what Ubuntu means this way, “I am a human because I belong. A person is a person through other people, a concept perfectly captured by the phrase “me-we.” He continues, “No one comes into the world fully formed. We need other human beings in order to be human. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms.”

Supportive relationships are as critical to our health as good nutrition, exercise and de-stressing. The life-giving support of our intimate relationships feeds, nourishes and soothes us in body, mind and spirit. Only our hearts can measure the beauty we find through our social and emotional connections with others. Our bonds with others offer us acceptance, belonging, interdependence, mercy, love and fun. Through Ubuntu we develop the vision to see the beauty and goodness in others and ourselves.

Learning how to uncover and embrace the beauty found within our lifestyle practices, each and every day, will aid us immeasurably in fostering and maintaining our health and well-being. Sticking to the basics on a daily basis is also the key for prima ballerina Julie Kent. Even though she is close to retiring, every morning her workout routine begins the same way—doing the same ballet warm-ups she has done since she was 8-years -old. She concludes her interview with this hopeful and encouraging thought, “We continue our practices with the hope and the possibility that each day we will do them more beautifully.”

What beauty have you uncovered in the process of developing your lifestyle practices?

 

Contributed by

Mimi O' Connor
Group Support Specialist

Hearts linked, together we heal…

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