Slowing Down to See the Beauty In Our Environments and Eachother: Gratitude for Simplicity

Just recently I said “yes” to time away in Sebastopol with two of my dearest girlfriends. Which wasn’t easy. I’ve become a little too used to the new tempo 2020 has imposed upon me, bringing out the less-fun version of me. The one who holds her breath, feels a little scared, and has shut herself off from appreciating some of the simple pleasures that are our birthright. Most notably beauty.

I’ve become somewhat stagnant with this imposed new structure in life by holding too still, staying too close to home, and not seeing or appreciating the blessings in my life. My colorful life seemingly dialing down to a neutral palette of gray. I don’t know if you’ve heard but gray is over. It’s so 2019. But this weekend I saw something different.

As our time at our friend’s farmhouse unfolded, my body slowed down and the tempo of my “doer” energy softened. I could begin to feel gratitude rise to the surface for every simple moment. It happened in layers. My breath began to deepen. I started to see every thoughtful beauty moment that had been left by others for us to enjoy, things I had overlooked when I first walked in, like the marigolds on the table, the bounty of the bowls of persimmons and apples.

With every step I took in the garden, every laugh with my friends, I lightened. It occurred to me that I was seeing more color, feeling more texture, noticing the sounds of birds, and the joy of being with my friends. And just like that — gratitude for simplicity became the theme of the weekend. Pursuit of achievement fell away and I let myself unravel the weeks and months of holding my breath.

Sometimes, no matter how beautiful we make our homes, no matter how much time and effort we put into selecting all these perfectionistic details, if we don’t slow down and really connect, from the inside, we are not able to truly see the beauty we are creating.

We don’t have to actually go away to reclaim the practice of settling and noticing if we commit to practices that slow us down, but it does provide a good reset. Mini-retreats can happen by heading in multiple directions here in the Bay Area, but we can also head in the direction of our own backyard or our meditation pillow. The point to be made is intention. We make all this effort to make it all so pretty, but if we don’t carve out time to be with it and enjoy it, then it’s kind of lost.

So then, how much of this retreat energy — of savoring simplicity and being present with beloved friends, can I bring back with me into my daily life? I’m thinking about how this year, for Thanksgiving, rather than rushing through all of the to-do-lists and cooking with a fury, I’m going to really savor every moment. If this year has taught me anything is that impermanence is the constant.

This November, I really am truly finding things to feel thankful for. As Dave Chappelle said in his Saturday Night Live monologue over the weekend: “I would implore everybody who’s celebrating today to remember that it’s good to be a humble winner…. I don’t hate anybody…. You gotta find a way to live your life. You gotta find a way to forgive each other. You gotta find a way to find joy in your existence.”

It’s making me hopeful, the power of what we can do when we take these tender moments of slowing down to find what’s human about people. When we can recognize that we are wrongmaking: the wrongmaking of ourselves for not measuring up to our own expectations; wanting things or people to be a certain way that they are not. What if we could stop that and appreciate the simple joy of loving each other right where we are. Life is messy and hard and we could all do with a reset of clearing the past and loving what is.

We have a choice. We can go deeper to find these human moments of connection to each other and ourselves. Turn off the judgment and start appreciating what is, seeing the beauty of what is. Then we can look out across the whole landscape of life and realize, I don’t have to change this other person, make them what I want them to be. We have to start there. This is what we are all needing now.

You know that expression, “Comparison is the thief of joy”? Sunday morning, I wrote in my journal, “Judgment is the thief of connection.” Judgment clouds my vision and my heart, compassion expands my capacity to see and feel. Love is so much simpler and more direct.

This weekend’s retreat was a reminder for me of what happens when we dial down to that slower place, set the intention for quiet reflection, get away from the chaos. Even though all the election excitement was going on at the same time, by lingering in and savoring the human connection, by lingering in and appreciating my surroundings, by slowing everything down, I remembered not just my humanity, but everybody’s humanity, including feeling deep compassion for those who don’t see things the way that I see things.

This is my intention: to slow down, love what is, and connect with others in this place. Will you join me?