THE CALLING OF AN ORDINARY LIFE
The beauty of an ordinary life is something I was frequently reminded of while spending a lot more time at home during the onslaught of Covid-19 pandemic. It is amazing to me that how, with remarkably diminished mental chatter, I paid more attention to things around me and was blown away by how beautiful they are. The trees blossoming in the summer, the leaves of autumn being swept around on the ground, the clear sky, the falling raindrops, the wind caressing my face, and almost everything else. I realize that simplest of things and ordinary routines have the most beauty. They are everywhere to enjoy, only if you are also there.
Almost everyone craves to lead an extraordinary life. The ubiquity of the internet and social media has made the path to fame easier than it ever was. Different people have different views about what success means to them. In any case, success is surely not about trying everything and anything to achieve someone else’s dream because our own is not extraordinary enough.
While you may be content with your life as it is, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram and other social media never cease to remind you, mostly in the guise of motivational quotes, that you ought to be doing more with your life. Though an extraordinary life may sometimes be a byproduct of one’s core pursuits, it cannot be a measure of success. Success, to me, is to be happy in your present state.
There is something uplifting about an ordinary life, like mine. It has a comforting level of steadiness unlike the extraordinary life that, even in its best forms, necessitates sacrifice of so many small things someone like me might take for granted. Freedom of travel, openness of speech, time for family and friends, and stability of a job. The last I know all too well about having quit my stable paying career for doing what matters to me.
I am now one of those folks who live out of public glare, doing what it is they do because it brings them all the gratification and substance they need. I envy some of my friends who could not care less about social media, and are content to savor and appreciate their own life. Balance is an important ingredient of an ordinary life as the world is predicated upon balance. It is also important to know and cherish your own gifts.
LIFE’S BEAUTY LIES IN THE TISSUES OF EACH DAY
The beauty of life lies in the web of our everyday activities and patterns – in repetition and not in escape. If you do not find it there, you may never find it. Do not see the routines of an ordinary life as the enemy of a life of adventure and spontaneity.
That you are not exactly where you would most like to be or that you are not doing what you would most like to do does not mean that life right now is not beautiful. If you take a closer look, it is indeed beautiful. The best part is that you do not have to do much to make it beautiful, it is already beautiful.
All you have to do to see things differently is to open your eyes. Have you ever considered how many things have to fall in place for you to enjoy your present experience, no matter how ordinary it is? Imagine if it took a conscious effort to start breathing, to charge your mind, to summon your sense of hearing to do something as simple as listening to music. Nothing you do or experience just happens. The universe is already at work for you, isn’t it marvelous.
Hope you now understand that it takes seeing things differently to realize that beauty exists in every moment. Boredom caused by monotony is nothing more than a creation of the mind. As a matter of fact, there are no ordinary or extraordinary moments, there is beauty in every moment. When you see things differently, you can find beauty in ordinary experiences and in ordinary objects. You can see a seed and realize that within itself it contains the possibility of a garden of flowers. You need to create a state of constant mindfulness of how beautiful life is.
Here are some catalysts and a few practical things you can do that will help you better explore and experience the beauty of life.
Be Who You Are
We all have personal areas that need improvement and you are no exception. You have your share of heartbreaks and frustrations and can be susceptible to sadness, negative energy from other people, loneliness, and occasional feelings of helplessness about the troubles of the world such as pandemics. But, overall, life is beautiful if you focus more on laughter, celebration, and the present moment.
This is the only life you have that can make you excited about being alive. Knowing yourself requires focused introspection and acceptance of who you are, sometime beneath the layers of denial about yourself. Discover yourself: your passions, your ambitions, your motivations, and your fears. Know what makes you proud, insecure, and ashamed. Know what work will make you happy even if you do not get paid for doing it. Learning about yourself can be an intense and emotional process, but this is a good place to start from if you want to be yourself in any situation rather than somebody else.
When we live life from the outside-in (that is, when we let what happens on the outside of us determine how we feel in the inside) we let our egos subjectively decide for us to experience the world through the filters of our preconceived judgments and beliefs. But when we live from the inside-out, from our essential selves, beauty can be a quality that is experienced in all things; even the mundane. It is when we are in sync with the intrinsic state of our true authentic selves, that we have a tendency to see beauty everywhere.
One of the hurdles in the way of feeling the beauty of life is that we often do not care to listen. We are either preoccupied or talking to ourselves. If we are thinking all the time, then we are living detached from reality. Thinking entails living in a world of symbols to label, explain, and pigeonhole things. This is, no doubt, a great instrument for communication, but its overindulgence can be blight.
If you are always thinking you have a weak connection with reality. In order to develop intimacy with life, you need to listen to it. For example, when you interact with someone and you are the only one talking, without giving the other person a chance to speak, there would be no communication. It is no different in your communication with life.
Rather than thinking all the time, take out to time to listen. Pay your full attention to listening. When you catch yourself drifting away, smile and gently bring your attention back to listening.
Do Not Judge
Be fully present and observe, but do not judge. You may have noticed that when you judge other people or things, it tends to put you in a negative frame of mind. Usually our judgment of others is based on who we are and how we think. That is not right, because yours is not the only correct version of life. Life is beautiful in all its versions – see life as interesting rather than perfect.
No matter how justifiable you feel your judgment is, much more often than not it is not worth it. Compassion is a better tool to use than judgment. Every time you feel an urge to judge, remind yourself to practice compassion instead. As your negativity dissolves, you will be more at peace with life. Beauty is never experienced through a position of condemnation, it is experienced through a position of peace. Stop judging, stop complaining, and find things interesting and not awful.
Be yourself and open your heart to accept life as it is, especially beyond the limited jurisdiction of your control. Let go of your resistance to the flow of life and do not mind what happens. Surrender to the only thing you have, this moment. When you take action to change something you can, be accepting of the results that transpire after your best effort.
The more you live in acceptance, the more bliss you let into your life. When you learn to open your heart to the present moment, to accept it without reservation, your life begins to transform remarkably. You live authentically, because you cannot live in acceptance and not be authentic. Inauthenticity always emanates from denial, from rejection of what is.
Live in Intimacy with Life
Make sure you do not get caught up in the mechanical routine of thinking, schedules, and obligations to dissolve your sense of wonder about the simple things in life. Simply quieting yourself on the inside and opening yourself up to an experience can enable you to view it again as if it were the very first time. When you are listening to music, know that it is a privilege life has bestowed on you, for many people are born without the ability to hear. When you reach out to pick something or to touch someone, think about how many people do not have the use of the limb in question. Enjoy colors, shapes, sounds, smells, tastes, and forms without an urge to label them.
All that you need to feel life’s beauty is available to you right now, what you need to do is to let yourself loose to savor it. Every time, you have a drink of coffee or something else, totally take in the smell of the beverage and then enjoy its flavor on your tongue. When you take a shower, feel the drops of water falling on your body. When you breathe, feel the air entering your body to fill your lungs and then to leave you. When you walk, feel every step you put on the ground.
Prioritize Your Passion
Do not get wrapped up in the need for perfection in everything you do. Seeking perfection in all you undertake hampers finding time for the things you really care about. It is important to make the things you love a priority. Allot specific time periods during the day when you only do what you really love doing.
Gratitude is about a deep serene sense of appreciation and thankfulness we feel for people, realities, and things in our lives. Our ability to relate to life with a sense of gratitude has the power to influence who and how we are in the world. Taking time out to identify and name the things and people that you are grateful for on a regular basis will enhance your capacity to find and see beauty in everyday life.
Gratitude is a tool with a high leverage to make life more pleasant. It is because consciously practicing gratitude shifts our focus. When we purposely start to look for the things that we appreciate, we begin to notice more of them. Grateful people tend to build and maintain more positive relationships. Ask yourself if you are spending enough time with the people who you indeed truly feel grateful for having in your life. Are you grateful for each experience and every moment you enjoy?
Giving in its essence is a desire to help others, to promote their wellbeing. It is a mindset and not just an action. Give something away, the best way to explore the beauty of life is to give of yourself – your possessions, your time, your money, your energy, a compliment, or a smile. Sometimes the highest gift you can give is sincerely giving your presence.
Relish Life’s Fragility
Life’s fragility makes it even more beautiful. Like it or not, our time is finite. The moments our life comprises make up the story of us. We are only going to get a limited amount of time with all the people we care for. This is the reality of life – it is fragile and will change often. We have again been reminded of this during this period marred by a pandemic.
Yet, life’s fragility is the very same thing which makes it beautiful. It should, make us more present in the moments we have. The beauty consists in the fact that nothing we experience will last forever, that nothing can be taken for granted. It makes you appreciate every moment you have, all that you behold is so much more.
The beauty of life is in living it, it is inside you and all around you. Slow down to make the perception of life being amazing a constant presence in your life. When you slow down, breathe deeply, and are fully present, you realize it is futile to always be in a hurry. Life is a one way journey that happens only once for each of us. What is the point in moving quicker to get more things done, when you miss the view to enjoy the journey now? We are all travelling at the same speed, it is just that some devote time and attention to enjoy it more fully.
I believe that the world is an essentially beautiful place, regardless of whether we are open to seeing its beauty or not. The only thing that can prevent us from appreciating the beauty that exists all around us is our own thinking. Ralph Waldo Emerson summarized it well when he said, “Though we travel the world to find the beauty, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”