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  • Calista Ocean

Noticing Beauty

Beauty is truth's smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.

~ Rabindranath Tagore

I was drowning. Absolutely inundated by beauty!  It was everywhere I looked.

The sun rising over the wild jungle each morning as we sat in silence. Moss-covered statues.  Trees wrapped in black and white skirts. Colorful offerings of flowers and sweets and incense in tiny palm-leaf baskets. Dragonflies flitting about in the midday sun. Torrential rains turning the streets into rivers fed by staircase waterfalls.  Ornate stone temples around every corner. Brilliant green hillsides covered with terraced rice paddies.  

Even when I closed my eyes, there was beauty.  Frogs singing kirtan along with us each night on a candlelit terrace.  Geckos making funny "chee-chak" sounds as if adding their commentary on the teachings being shared.  A Balinese priest chanting and ringing a bell that somehow unlocked a deep remembering of something beyond words.  Loud claps of thunder reverberating each time threads of lightning flashed in the night sky.  Ethereal music and soundscapes carrying me into the moonlit jungle of my soul.

And even beyond that - beauty engaged all of my senses.  It was almost overwhelming...

Sipping earthy, spicy jamu - a drink made with turmeric and ginger - that made my mouth tingle and my chest warm.  Feeling the cool condensation on the glass my bright green coconut-mint-lime smoothie. The scent of sandalwood powder on my fingertips and the acrid smell of smoke-filled morning air from fires offered at sunrise. Sweat glistening on my skin.  My body opening and reaching and strengthening each time I stepped onto my yoga mat.

In early 2020, I'd registered for yoga teacher training in Bali, Indonesia.  A few months later the world shut down due to the pandemic , and so I waited three years to come to here.  Twenty-eight days seemed like an eternity when I landed there one late at night in early October, but the time passed quickly.  Even before I left, I began to miss the people with that I'd shared this journey with.  I knew I also miss the smiles of the local people who were so kind and generous.  Of course, I longed to be home with my husband and my family, but part of me wanted to linger.  How could I walk away from so much beauty?  How could I leave the lush, green jungle to return to the stark desert and the neon lights of Las Vegas? 

When I arrived home in early November, it was wonderful to be reunited with my husband and the cool weather felt delightful.  It was lovely to sleep in my own bed again and not to share my bathroom with ants and geckos.  I certainly didn't miss coating myself with insect repellent lotions and sprays every day and was relieved to watch the swollen mosquito bites disappear from my arms and legs.

I was excited to do yoga and write poetry and create community, but within a week or two, I could feel my inspiration waning.  Instead of recommitting to my practices, I got swept up in household projects, family responsibilities, and long to do lists.   I looked around me and saw glass and metal and blinking lights. Everywhere I looked, people wandered by like zombies, staring at their phones.  And I did the same - scrolling through social media and email - noticing the same old themes of loneliness and bitterness and disconnection.  The "forgetting" was happening quicker than I'd anticipated.  My experiences in Bali were already like a dream only half-remembered upon waking.

I made up my mind to focus on being grateful through the busy holiday season and expected to "rally" as I transitioned into 2023.  But instead, I got sick with the flu, which turned into a sinus infection, and then laryngitis. So I gave up. I sat on the couch or in bed and binge-watched TV and played games on my phone or organized online files and photos.  And I felt sorry for myself, despite the love and support of my husband.

But then, when I stopped organizing online photos and stepped back into my day-to-day life, I noticed something...

Beauty!  It was everywhere. It always has been.  The problem was that I had stopped noticing it.

Of course, when I travel or go somewhere new (or meet someone new?), I notice the beauty. Why? Because I’m looking for it!  But when a place becomes or is familiar, I stop looking for the beauty. I stop noticing it. In fact, I begin to notice the non-beauty. 

So, I've decided that my "theme" for 2023 is beauty. I will photograph it and listen to it and feel it and create it.  I will give it and receive it.  I will celebrate it.  I will savor it one sip at a time. I will allow it to wash over me and through me.  I will dance in it.  I will sing to it.  I will write about it.  I will notice it.  Every day.

This doesn’t mean that I'll ignore or not notice the ugliness in the world. Pretending that it’s not there will not make it go away. However, for my own sanity, I will choose to look for beauty.  The beauty that is already always there...waiting to be noticed.

What is your "theme" or commitment in 2023? What will you choose to notice or create or be?


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