How To Increase Well-Being With Navajo Path ‘The Beauty Way’
In a world with much violence and ugliness, there are three old-fashioned things that come to my mind that I truly believe keep our precious globe spinning in its right orbit: kindness, compassion and beauty. Out of these, of course, are born many others such as respect, harmony, peace, understanding, trust, and love.
Kindness, compassion, and beauty aren’t about denial and distraction – I see them as radical revolution, especially during times when negativity is unleashed like wildfires into the collective consciousness. All these qualities essentially stem from wounds healed along the long hard roads we had to pave through our lives – towards the wholeness that we become, towards re-integrating all parts of ourselves, those parts we thought were once lost. It’s how we find ourselves amidst chaos and darkness when we are deep into the woods.
In many cultures, our personal qualities are considered medicine. They are natural healers and can improve our overall well-being. As sparkles of light, we leave traces of these virtues along the way for others to have light also when they need it. We might think that our kindness is not treasured or appreciated, or that it never made a difference, but know that it did – because it has left a print on the consciousness of another, and even if they don’t recognize it yet, one day the memory of it will help them in life.
When our grace and forgiveness touches the hands of another, their hands may scent with this long after. Well, they may or they may not. They may choose to pass it along, or they may not. But surely, at that moment, even if their heart didn’t open in any way – ours did. Love heals. Compliments heal. Encouragement heals. Support heals. Inspiration heals. In Shamanism, animals carry their own medicine for us also – and when they cross our path, showing up as animal spirit guides or totems or omens, we can learn about their energy and use this as a guide and/or healer in our life.
Beauty too is a healer. And when I say beauty, I don’t mean the shallow glamours of social media and advertising – I mean the real beauty – that which softens skins, opens hearts, and opens minds. Beauty is a quality of harmony, grace, balance, and interconnectedness: physical, emotional, and spiritual all at once. The virtue of beauty is essentially a bringer of peace and serenity – peace of heart, peace of mind.
The Diné (Navajo) called this quality hózhǫ́, embodied in this simple, powerful prayer: With beauty before me may I walk. With beauty behind me may I walk. With beauty below me may I walk. With beauty above me may I walk. With beauty all around me may I walk.
The beauty way is a graceful way of walking, like in nature and wildlife, that portrays the cycles of the land that our own body and life are. It is essentially a spiritual path of life – one of acceptance, allowance, and trust. Beauty is both a path toward inner peace and a path into the world. Our recognition of beauty – in all of its various forms and shapes, different speeds and movements, within ourselves, others, animals, nature, objects, and art – is what can create a loving sanctuary for our soul and heart in daily life.
Hózhó, Walking in Beauty
The Navajo have a philosophy of “Walking in Beauty”, which refers to the path of beauty as a way of deep respect for life: honoring the sacredness and interconnectedness in everything. In this process, we become not so much moved by the outward appearances of things but by the inner qualities of that which we cannot necessarily meet or see. Essentially, hózhǫ́ is a way of life, and it is “the actual state of both perceived external events and hidden forces beyond those events”. As we mentioned, it is this concept known as hózhǫ́ that is loosely translated to “beauty”. Synonymous with this idea of beauty are concepts like goodness, harmony, health, and higher-order. Hózhǫ́ is very much an internal state of being, which is essentially affected by the flow of cosmic energy through our body.
In Navajo cosmology, the hidden, vital, motivating force within us is known as nilch’l, or Wind – and it is this energy and power that resides in and permeates all things. Nilch’I hwii’siziini or “the wind that stands within” is one of the aspects within us as human beings that is part of the greater whole. The Navajo believe that once this inner balance is disturbed, it may lead to external disturbances and imbalances, feelings of emotional and mental exhaustion, general unhealthiness, and physical ailments also.
Hózhǫ́ or Wind can become unbalanced or lost in a number of ways. But essentially, when we do not actively engage with or live with hózhǫ́ in mind, we “forget” it. In order to then return to the equilibrium or the “state of beauty”, we must remember to actively live with hózhǫ́ and embody it through our everyday life and through the ordinaries of all that surrounds us. Like I wrote in Sacredness and Humanness, if we want to live in more beauty or more sacredness, we must see more beauty and sacredness; we must see more beautiful images, and beautiful art, read beautiful words and stories that remind us of the holiness we carry within us.
To remain on this beauty path is of course a challenge, so we must constantly remind ourselves of it. Artwork, jewelry, textile designs, poetry, beautiful words and beautiful images, when created with purpose and intention of heart and of love, can be healing to the soul and put us back on track. Beauty often reveals powerful, hidden spiritual dimensions – but it also reaches deep within our consciousness, awakening the memory of divine love and of who we truly are. Like fireflies along our way in the woods, it lights up all parts of us that we thought were once lost – and brings us into our completeness where harmony and peace reside in our inside of.
The Spirit of Beauty
Poets, artists, mystics, and philosophers have long spoken and written about how beauty is at the core of all enchantment of life – and of our experience of life. Beauty understands the art of love and of loving. It is a ritual of approach – as the way we approach something or someone is ultimately how we’ll shape our experience of it.
Faith traditions and belief systems from around the world often remind us to remain inspired to find beauty in all of creation. Seeing the essences of things, rather than the superficial surfaces is what can ignite the flames of our hearts and is what allows an opportunity for a deepening. We already discussed the Navajo, and there are many others found in texts from Christianity, Islam, Kabbalah, and spiritual beliefs throughout Asia, that emphasize the beauty of God in all his creations.
Philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting – a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.”
The Japanese writer and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi noted how “even the common articles made for daily use can become endowed with beauty when they are loved.”
And this is precisely it: When we choose we tend to love something, and truly see it, it becomes beautiful and we experience ourselves through more joy, pleasure, and harmony.
Consider this: List the things and/or people that you feel drawn to, and then reflect on how perhaps you are drawn to them because you have acknowledged their inherent beauty, even if you have not realized it yet.
Ralph Waldo Emerson many times said how no matter how far we travel into the world unless we carry the beauty within us, we’ll never find it anywhere.
The book of Mahābhāratam, which is one of the major Sanskrit epics of ancient India traditionally ascribed to the sage Vyasa, begins with the beautiful lines: What you find here, you will find elsewhere. What you can’t find here, you will not find anywhere else.
How to walk The Beauty Way
We walk in beauty every day, even where there is all mud around us. But spiritual concepts can sometimes seem too high-in-the-sky, so let’s explore some ideas about how we can walk the beautiful way in our daily life. After all, the best place to start to love and practice beauty, and anything else in life, is in the ordinaries of our day.
When there is too much clutter in our space, whether it is our home, room or closet, we may not be able to see as clearly the beauty that we may already have. This also relates to not only clutter, but to having too many tasks in front of us – which creates mental clutter. Start by clearing out what you can, so that you can notice what is beautiful about the things you have – and make space for new things, for new energy to come in when you clear out any excess possessions you no longer use or need. This action affirms a commitment to simplify and beautify your life and space. Remember that our external space is an extension of our inner state of being.
Take pleasure in freshening the air by opening the windows, washing your bed sheets and pillows, and decorating your space by, for example, having some beautiful wildflowers or nicely scented candles. Consider re-organizing your furniture if you want to create something that feels new, rather than buying new stuff. When you clean out your closet, you may find old things that you can renew – or merely rediscover how you loved wearing them because they’ve been tucked away for a long time. As you engage yourself in all this, admire textures, fabrics, scents, colors, and the pristine craftsmanship of your things.
Isn’t it wonderful how many secret threads were used to make a dress, to bind a book – all secret threads with stories to tell, and the efforts of hands and hearts? Your space is a comforting refuge from the world – and you should attempt to keep it feeling peaceful and loving so that you can settle into it whenever you need to. It’s where we go to sleep and then wake up – so it is only natural that beauty should live, dance, and breathe within it.
Whether it is with friends, family, spouse, and children, try to find the beauty in all those you hold dear in your heart. Notice how they smile, laugh, dream, sadden, frown, and even cry. Notice how they try each day to make something meaningful of their life, and how they find meaning in their life. Notice how they support others and encourage them. Of course, they will have bad days, moody days, and sad days, as we will too, but each day they wake up and show up for life doing the best that they can with what they have. You will find more peace and feel more love by witnessing the beauty they have that shines from within them, in all these little gestures that we often only pass by and rarely notice. Find the beauty that resides in their heart. That’s the beauty that matters and always shines.
We have infinite opportunities to admire so much beauty in our world, just by merely being in nature. In nature, and by observing “all of God’s creatures”, we also understand the beauty way. In the woods, there are many animals and creatures with their own nutritive cycles, and all these live within us as well. There are also seasons, moon wanings, and waxings. There is time for solitude, there is time for connection, there is time for quietness and rest, and there is time for passionate action and initiation. None of these are mutually exclusive, all live in and of each other. This is what spirituality shows us: how spirit is imbued and flows through everything, and how all is interconnected. Animals draw out our tenderness and we can always connect to all and to everything as long as we spend enough time with it. Watch wildlife, feed the little squirrels, listen to the birdsongs, and watch the ants make their kingdoms. There is an abundance of creative beauty in wildlife and in nature. The way flowers have mesmerizing colors and beautiful designs – it is perfection. The way every animal has all that it needs as senses and skin, to navigate through life. In the words of artist Vincent Van Gogh, “If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” Nature, whether we are aware of it or not, is the everyday dress that we wear in our world. It’s the sacred art of self-adornment. The mysterious enchantment of seashells, the blue of the sky and of the sea that moves us though we can’t quite bottle its color, the exquisite pattern of leaves that no designer can ever capture.
It may seem a little boring to admire buildings, streets, pavements, and cement, but in these architectural intents, there is beauty to be found also. Once I saw a beautiful chapel in Italy which was in almost entire ruins, abandoned on a hill, due to a severe earthquake which caused all the people in the village to leave almost a century ago. But this chapel stands there still, in her glory.
To me, she is beautiful, as she holds the love of many hearts inside herself. You can see the sunlight, and the moonlight, across the floors because there is no roof anymore. Still, she stands strong. Wildflowers and plants have grown all around and inside her. God, as beauty, like love, is patient. Resilient. And life always finds a way. Amidst the ruins, like lost forgotten diamond rings, pieces of the walls and bricks carrying old paintings are still shining – even in parts, even if only when the light hits the angles just right.
The way of beauty is a slow way. Light steps. It is almost natural to harden up when things, people, or situations around us are negative, or when we feel like our world is somehow falling apart. So walk lightly child, lightly. Take small steps, one foot after the other. Find beauty and gratitude in the little things. Take joy in the good news, no matter how small it may seem, if it relieved your worries even a little bit – allow yourself to be happy about it. Consider that in your today there is something you once prayed for. Maybe you were worried about your foot hurting last week, but today all was great because you went for a walk. Maybe you were worried about money, but today you received an unexpected refund, even if small. Maybe the dishwasher broke, but your loved ones are healthy and you watched a comedy together laughing with full bellies! And consider this too about the dishwasher: Each broken thing might just be an opportunity for renewal.
Beauty startles us out of our ordinary patterns, and it is like a life force.
It both inspires and soothes our soul and our heart. We can receive beauty and we can give it to others. We can feel it as pleasure, as love, as joy that warms the mystery of life.
In the words of Albert Einstein: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. This is the source of all true art and science.” May this emotion never become a stranger in our life. May this wonder always be in our eyes. For eyes that see beauty in the little things, our eyes wide open, of heart and joy and life.
In your search for beauty, you will inevitably find peace and harmony – and be blessed, and be a blessing, walking with the gift of awe and wonder. With such gratitude awakened within you, you will move through the sanctuary of your heart and light up beauties all around you – for all others to see and experience as well.
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