Monday, 4 June 2012

Beauty As Well As Bread...

"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."

- John Muir

Monday, 2 April 2012

The God of Cool

After reading this blog post, I suspect The God of Cool may be the enemy of Beauty, Balance and Delight. What do you think?

Saturday, 4 February 2012


Beauty, Balance and Delight has become my resolution for this year, and 'I Dare to Dwell in Beauty, Balance and Delight, I Dare to See with Clear Eyes and an Open Heart' has become my mantra.

In times of stress, in times of boredom, in times of uncertainty, and periodically during each day, I pull my attention back to the presence of Beauty, Balance and Delight and silently repeat my mantra. I dare to dwell in beauty, balance and delight, I dare to see with clear eyes and an open heart. Or at least I try.

It is a habit I need to cultivate. It feels like exercising a hitherto underused muscle. It seems like it should be easier; after all, who wouldn't want to dwell in beauty, balance and delight? On the other hand, I am noticing how often I substitute what is merely adequate for that which is beautiful, delightful, or even balanced, because it is easier, or cheaper, or quicker. Do I take the time to cook something fresh, tasty, nourishing and beautiful, or do I just grab a ready-made snack? I just grab the snack more often than I'd like, I'm afraid. Do I sleep in a beautifully decorated, serene and cosy bedroom, or is it more of a cluttered, clothes-strewn disaster area in dire need of a good turn out and some new wallpaper? Sadly, the latter. Do I make a delicious ritual of bathing, complete with scented bubbles, candles, soft music? Well, once in a blue moon. But more often than not it's more of a hasty soap-and-water splash before dashing out late for work because I've overslept.

And the beautiful, delightful things in my life tend to get rationed, kept for best, or not even used at all, in case they get spoilt, or lost, or broken. Of course, this touches a little on balance. I do believe that familiarity can breed contempt, and overuse of a luxury can rob it of its magic, as I wrote on Moonroot a few years back. Nevertheless, why keep wearing the slippers in which my feet are always cold when there are a luxurious sheepskin lined pair sitting unused under the bed being saved for 'best'? (who wears slipper for 'best' anyway?) I have a deliciously soft, cashmere jumper hidden away in a drawer. I never wear it in case it gets spoiled. And my favourite skirt (a swirly-hemmed bias-cut silk number that flutters prettily as I walk) rarely gets an outing for the same reason.

At Christmas, my sister told me she and her husband spent the morning in bed, opening their gifts and sipping champagne. And I thought, I would never do that. Or if I did, the champagne would have been substituted with a cheap bottle of fizz and I would have been tormented with guilt over the fact that I should have been doing the washing up or cleaning the bath instead...

...I think need to stop waiting for the day when it's OK to enjoy life and just start doing it.

Perhaps this is where the notion of DARING to dwell in beauty, balance and delight comes in. Our Protestant overculture and its infamous work ethic doesn't really encourage enjoyment of the sensual just for its own sake. As Elizabeth Gilbert says in 'Eat, Pray, Love', " ...Americans have an inability to relax into sheer pleasure. Ours is an entertainment-seeking nation, but not necessarily a pleasure-seeking one"  [Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love' chapter 21, p. 64], and "For me though, a major obstacle in my pursuit of pleasure is my ingrained Puritan guilt. Do I really deserve this pleasure? This is very American too - the insecurity about whether we have earned our happiness. Planet Advertising in America orbits completely around the need to convince the uncertain consumer that yes, you have actually warranted a special treat. This Bud's for You! You Deserve a Break Today! Because You're Worth It! You've Come a Long Way, Baby! And the insecure consumer thinks, Yeah! Thanks! I am gonna go buy a six-pack, damn it! Maybe even two six-packs! And then comes the reactionary binge. Followed by the remorse. Such advertising campaigns would probably not be as effective in the Italian culture, where people already know that they are entitled to enjoyment in this life. The reply in Italy to "You Deserve a Break Today" would probably be, Yeah, no duh." [ibid p.65]. Gilbert may be writing about Americans, but I think the above pretty much applies to us Brits too.

My friend Deborah, a psychotherapist, told me once of a client of hers who was making big changes in her life and declared, "This is NOT a mid-life crisis but a mid-course CORRECTION!". That, I believe, is where I am now. Taking stock of where the last 48 (gulp) years have got me, and choosing to adjust my course into the future. The last few years have been a steep learning curve (see past posts on Moonroot if you want the details), and now it is time to step forward in a new direction and explore the realms of Beauty, Balance and Delight.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Beautiful World

We live in such a beautiful world yet sometimes I think we stop seeing just how beautiful and wondrous it really is. And sometimes we are just so caught up in the day to day mundanities of life that just stopping for a few minutes to appreciate that beauty seems a frivolous notion.



Take a few minutes to just drink in this beautiful video (put it on full screen, turn up the music, relax, breathe...)


There. Feel better? Me too.


Monday, 9 January 2012

What, Why and a Little Bit of How...

So. Before we proceed any further on this exploration, there are some questions to be asked. Firstly, what is meant by Beauty, Balance and Delight? Why have I decided to explore/blog on the subject? And what forms will that exploration take? There are no hard and fast answers to any of these questions - but here are some clues and signposts to the journey ahead.

To get us started, I'm using the following dictionary definitions* of 'Beauty', 'Balance' and 'Delight':

Beauty: noun (plural beauties)
  • 1 [mass noun] a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight: I was struck by her beauty an area of outstanding natural beauty
  • a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect: the artistry and beauty of football
  • 2a beautiful or pleasing thing or person,
Balance: noun
  • [mass noun] a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions: the obligations of political balance in broadcasting [in singular]: try to keep a balance between work and relaxation
  • mental or emotional stability: the way to some kind of peace and personal balance

Delight: noun
[mass noun]
  • great pleasure: she took great delight in telling your story
  • [count noun] a cause or source of great pleasure: the trees here are a delight

The phrase, 'Beauty Balance and Delight' was originated by my friend and teacher, Donald Engstrom-Reese. I first encountered it in a class Donald was teaching on Pagan Prayer Beads. Part of the prayer Donald used was a repeating phrase, 'I Dare to Dwell in Beauty, Balance and Delight; I Dare to See with Clear Eyes and an Open Heart'. I loved the phrase and have used it with my own set of Prayer Beads. But I think it's fair to say that I am only now coming to truly understand and explore the depth, breadth and possibilities of the words. Donald also speaks of 'The Emerging Cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight', which he defines thus:  

"Cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight - These are the emerging cultures that among other things, are concerned with transforming the relationships between the human made worlds and the natural realms into loving, sustainable, joyful partnerships, that are dedicated to pleasure and beauty, that embrace an ethics of justice and fair play, and that delight in the authentic lives of itʼs individuals and communities. The Cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight are the emerging cultures that, among other things:

1. focus on transforming the relationships between the human made worlds and the natural realms into loving, sustainable, joyful partnerships,
2. choose to live life fully awake, aware and co-creatively,
3. are dedicated to pleasure and beauty,
4. embrace an ethics of justice and fair play,
5. delight in the authentic lives of its individuals and communities,
6. are willing to accept the consequences of their choices, learning from them and moving on,
7. remember that there is always a choice,
8. are spinning cosmologies clearly naming love and compassion as foundational underpinnings of the multiverse."

As to the 'Why?', I'm a little less clear on that for now. On a personal level, events over the last few years have led me to re-examine my life (please feel free to dip into my 'Moonroot' blog for the gory details). I have been thinking deeply about my values and how I want to live the rest of my life. I want to dwell in Beauty, Balance and Delight, daring to see with clear eyes and an open heart. And I want to participate fully in the emerging cultures of Beauty, Balance and Delight.

How? That, I imagine, will unfold as the journey continues. Currently, I am meditating daily on 'Beauty, Balance and Delight', and using Donald's 'I Dare to Dwell' prayer with a set of Prayer Beads I was given recently as a gift. I am also musing on how the theme of Beauty, Balance and Delight is appearing and reappearing synchronistically in my life at the moment - I shall probably be blogging more on that subject soon.

For now, 'I Dare to Dwell in Beauty, Balance and Delight; I Dare to See with Clear Eyes and an Open Heart'. Blessed Be.

* Balance and Delight can also be verbs, of course. But for our purposes I think we'll stick to the nouns.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

2012: A Year of Beauty, Balance and Delight

Have you come across the idea of choosing a word to focus on at the beginning of each year? I have tried this in previous years, with mixed success. To be honest it has often felt a little forced, and I rarely stuck with my word for the whole year. Like a poorly thought out New Year's Resolution, some words haven't even made it to the end of January.

This year however, instead of searching for a word, three words have been insistently knocking at my door, asking - demanding - to be let in. Those words are Beauty, Balance and Delight.

Over the next twelve months - and perhaps longer, I intend to actively welcome Beauty, Balance and Delight into my life. On this blog I will explore what that means, in theory and in practice. I don't know exactly how that's going to work. This is the first step on an intriguing journey, and as yet I am unsure where it will lead. Will you join me?