Why do I think this is not beautiful?
“The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.” – John Cage
John Cage is an American composer whose most well-known/controversial piece is 4′33″. The Wikipedia entry describes it as “performed in the absence of deliberate sound.” I like that adjective: deliberate. Another way I’d describe this piece is a shift in point-of-view. He forces the audience to listen to the sounds they create and the venue’s ambient sounds as the musicians sit holding (rather than playing) their instruments. When I read his quote about beauty, it shifted my point-of-view and gave me another exercise for deliberate practice.
There is an Avatar exercise in ReSurfacing in which you notice how your attention is attracted to or repulsed by objects (people, etc.). It’s another rainy morning, 36 degrees, here in Madison. The weather went from cold and snowy all the way through the start of April to rainy and grey today. I think we’ve had one day of warmth and sunshine so far this spring. There are still some crusty snow piles lurking. As I walk around mushy grey-green grass, sodden leaf puddles, and soppy litter, I’m repeating his words in my head, “Why do I think this is not beautiful?”
I experienced it as an easy way to remain present while expanding my point-of-view. Rather than put a long description here, I’ll leave it to you to explore the experience yourself. It doesn’t require a long walk, just a mind-shift.