Fairfield County Edition

Born This Way

Appreciating the Depth and Breadth of Natural Beauty

When you hear the term “natural beauty,” what comes to mind? Do you think of a person, perhaps a woman, whose attractive features look young, healthy and flawless? Or perhaps your thoughts take a completely different direction, conjuring up images of the Grand Canyon, or a giant sequoia, or a tropical waterfall. Clearly the term means different things to different people, bringing to mind the adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

From cosmetics and Kardashians to Katmandu and kaleidoscopes, our ideas of beauty certainly come from within. There are as many definitions of the phrase as there are people and their moods—which begs the question: What is natural beauty?

Natural is one of those wonderful words that we all think we can easily define. Everyone knows what natural means, right? So it’s surprising to look it up and see half a column in the dictionary devoted to this simple word. In fact, the first entry in one book might surprise you: “based on an inherent sense of right and wrong”. The second entry gets a little closer to a more widely used definition: “being in accordance with or determined by nature; having or constituting a classification based on features existing in nature”. Or, in other words, born this way.

This brings us, naturally, to the other word in the phrase: beauty. One suitable definition of beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit”.

So, we can fairly describe natural beauty as something in accordance with or determined by nature that pleasurably exalts the spirit. That can be anything—from the Northern Lights to Idris Elba, from the awesome experience of a volcano erupting to the sublime sweetness of a sleeping newborn. Indeed, we always see beauty from our own perspective and it can’t really be any other way.

Let us not forget that natural includes us. We are not outside of nature; instead, we are an integral part of it. So, not only is our appreciation of beauty entirely personal, our experience of “nature” also comes from within—and we realize that we are inside the fishbowl looking out, not the other way around.

To paraphrase Annie Dillard, it is in beholding the world that we create the world we live in. We behold natural beauty to the extent that we express and appreciate those qualities in ourselves and in others. Understanding this is the key to increasing your own natural beauty.

How do we do this? 

Deepen your awareness that you are part of nature and subject to all the forces therein. Nature is neither good nor bad; it simply is. Being a natural being means you follow the arc of all things natural. You are born, you go through youth, maturation, aging and you die. Every natural thing follows this pattern. Doing your best to improve conditions for a good life will create an environment in which you flourish. Find your sweet spot. Follow your bliss.

Seek out experiences that exalt your mind and spirit. What a wonderful notion; it sounds holy, doesn’t it? How often do you feel exalted? This can come from anywhere: a yoga class, listening to music or reading an engrossing book. It can come from discovering something new about a friend, volunteering to clean up a community center or from slipping into clean sheets and drifting into a sound sleep after a tiring day.

Here’s the irony of natural beauty: the more you recognize your place in nature by experiencing things that exalt your mind and spirit, the more your own natural beauty emerges. You will understand better that you are not a separate being, above or below others. Your tendency to see things as relative grows and expands your awareness that you are “part of.” You see the interplay between what you carry within you and how that affects everything you perceive in the world around you. It is then that you appreciate and can easily share your own natural beauty.

Meg Reilly is a counselor, writer and artist. You can learn more and sign up for her free weekly letter on how to live with compassion for yourself and others at
MegReilly360.com. See listing, page 25.

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