This is excerpted from one of my most remarked upon chapters from my book, A Rooted Mind… Saying yes to beauty, wellness and deeply-rooted mental health. I thought I’d share it with you in honor of my recent purge, cleaning and clearing of my house. It feels so good to let things go and to love every fiber of what you choose to keep. There is so much love available to us in this world. It’s good to remember that being clear is one of the best ways to find it and to let it find us.
One of the hardest things about being indefinitely trapped in the locked ward of a psychiatric hospital is the absence of beauty. For me, the state hospital was the worst, with its cinderblock walls, metal beds with cheap plastic mattresses and scratchy linens, and bars on the windows so we couldn’t see out or get out. There were even giant heating/cooling machines where the food was prepared before we were each given an orange plastic tray. Salad and pizza somehow heated and cooled together. Strange and completely devoid of beauty. I couldn’t even retreat to the bathroom or the privacy of a shower; everything had multiple stalls with curtains instead of doors.
The first time I was in the state psychiatric hospital, a few friends came to visit me, and their visit really brought home to me how ugly my life had become. They were on their way back from a hiking trip in the mountains where they had stayed in a beautiful cabin in the woods. As they sat with me in the airless, windowless visitors’ room inside the locked ward, which was the only place I could be, I broke down and cried. I could smell the fresh air on their skin and see the life they brought with them. I could sense the trees and the waterfalls and the mountain views they had just experienced. I couldn’t understand how my life had gone so wrong, how these people who had been my best friends and my equals could be free to hike in the sunshine while I was locked in a place that was so ugly and where I couldn’t even go outside to get fresh air.
It is hard to believe that you deserve anything beautiful at all or are at all beautiful inside anymore when you are locked away from all the beauty the world has to offer. But even if you have been put in a place where there is no beauty, as I have, you can claim beauty as your own. In fact, it is essential that you do so in order for you to become whole. There is no space between wholeness and beauty. What is whole is always beautiful, and what is beautiful is always whole.
You are beautiful, and you can choose right now to embrace beauty in everything you do and in every part of who you are. You can start with where you are right now. Take a look around. How are you honoring beauty in your life at this very moment? When you look at your surroundings, is there something in sight that makes your heart sing?
We can always take steps that lead us closer to beauty, and eventually our steps will lead us to the place where we can live where we are never separate from beauty, both in ourselves and in the world around us. Our choices to move step by step toward beauty will lead us to our most clear and beautiful selves and then, finally, to our most clear and beautiful lives.
What steps could you take today to honor beauty in your life? You might have been where I have been, in places where there is so little beauty that a piece of your soul gets broken. But you can get that piece of yourself back. It is waiting for you to notice it and claim it.
Start now. Would you like a special plant next to your bed or a pillowcase with green leaves on it? Can you put the papers that need recycling out on the curb instead of letting them collect on your kitchen table? Can you make the surfaces in your house clutter-free? Start with the space you look at most. What is the view like from your bed? What is the first thing you see when you open your eyes in the morning and the last thing you see at night before you go to sleep? Make that thing beautiful. Make the view from your bed a feast for your eyes and your heart and your soul.
The clouds and the waterfalls and the hot springs are calling you. The deer that feed at the edge of the forest have a message for you. There is a reason you like to wear purple. It is important that you choose to drink your morning coffee out of the white porcelain cup with the cobalt blue flowers that your grandmother gave you instead of the chipped orange one with the name of the drug company on it.
Now, go find a way to make your world just a little more beautiful. Keep choosing beauty again and again. Choose it in the smallest ways and in the biggest ones. Choose it, and let it choose you. You deserve it. You are as beautiful as the moonlight over the ocean. You are as beautiful as the tallest tree in the forest. You are simply magnificent. Start letting the world around you reflect it. Choose your own personal path to wholeness. No matter how broken you have felt, you have a light inside of you. Choose that light. Let beauty be your guide.