My guest blogger this week is Rita Patel! Rita is a mixed-media artist and founder of Experiments in Beautiful Thinking and of Relational Waste. She and I are members of LadyDrinks (founded by Joya Dass). I invited Rita as my guest blogger because she genuinely has an impressive portfolio of work to her name, and is a great source of inspiration to others in the artistic field!
By Rita Patel:
What if being mindful meant to be here now with all that is, rather than escape it all?
Ellen Langer writes that mindfulness has two key strategies that improve our health: attention to context and attention to variability and that to be mindful is to be in the present, noticing all the wonders that we did not even realize were right in front of us. This style of mindfulness lets us see what is in front of us in new ways, experience the timeworn as new, and believe in what could be. It activates our gift of imagination. And our imagination is what ultimately creates our reality.
I found that in my work with people that it is best to start with where you at and to stay away from cumbersome practices that you have to figure out how to add into your already full life. I am also partial to that which is most natural to us and has deep and multi-faceted impact. Which is why my work focuses on cultivating a personal beauty practice. Not one focused on glamour but rather one that has deep personal meaning unique to each of you. And, contrary to what is often thought, rather being an escape, our experience of beauty can bring us back to reality. Piero Ferruci says it best in Beauty and the Soul: “If we forget beauty, we risk losing touch with the concreteness of life…living in the bureaucracy of reality, instead of reality.”
Before I share how to create your own practice, I would like to share what happens when you experience beauty…A short list includes the following:
- Greater creativity
- Feeling of gratitude
- More joy
- Experiences of wonder and awe
- Greater vitality and energy
- Generates more kindness and compassion
- And of course, presence and mindfulness
(And as you have probably inferred, the repression of beauty harms us deeply – leading to aggressiveness, contempt, depression, anxiety and stress.)
Barbara Fredrickson’s research shows that experiencing positive emotions (such as those elicited by experiencing beauty) brightens our minds and builds our resourcefulness in ways that help us become more resilient to adversity and effortlessly achieve what we once could only imagine. She found that positive emotions are an essential psychological nutrient that builds mental and physical health, just like getting enough exercise and eating leafy greens.
So, you how do you get started exploring beauty? Below is daily practice that you can adapt and layer in ways that speak to you and allowing you have beauty at the forefront – “Seeing with new eyes that which is habitual to us”:
PART 1: What is beauty? (set aside 10 minutes)
- Choose a thing, a person, or experience you find beautiful
- Write by describing what you chose for 5 uninterrupted minutes (do not pause and use the whole time)
- Use adjectives
- Start by describing the top, middle, and bottom or beginning, middle and end
- Use your five senses to prompt you in the descriptive adjectives (ex: what are the smells associated with it?)
- Write a little story about it
- Keep pen/pencil moving – even if all you write is “this is beautiful…” over and over
- After you are done writing, notice the adjectives/descriptions you used
- Where else do you see those same adjectives/descriptions in other things, people, and experiences? Make some notes.
- Suggested: do this practice daily with the same or different thing and you will notice patterns arise over time.
Part 2: Connecting the dots
- Think about your home-centered everyday activities that you do regularly and consistently (such as ironing, laundry, bathing, getting dressed, food shopping…the list may seem endless)
- Reframe these activities as self-care rituals
- Choose one self-care activity – choose the one you find quite mundane, do mindlessly or even dislike (ex: brushing my teeth)
- Choose one “anchor point” in that activity to focus on while doing it (ex: brushing your teeth anchor = the feel of the toothbrush; folding laundry anchor = feel of fabric OR making the fold creases)
- Every time you do this self-care activity, pay attention to your anchor point
- Do you notice a moment of beauty? Think back to the adjectives/descriptions in Part 1 – are any of them present here? (ex: the toothbrush handle is curved in a way that I find beautiful – in PART 1, I wrote about how curves are beautiful)
- Capture what you notice – even in the mundane activity is there some element of what you find beautiful here? (You can jot down notes, journal or make a visual image)
As you practice this daily with more anchor points and more self-care rituals, you may still not enjoy the activity as a whole but you will have moments of beautiful experiences and be engaged (present and mindful). It may enrich your routines and home life. And at a time when it seems like we are living in an uncontrollable world, your daily beauty practice can give you freedom to choose and create a life by seeing and thinking in new ways.
Lastly, the back of my business card says “What if you could change the world by experiencing beauty?” By that I mean beauty begets beauty. The more you experience the more you will create it in the world. If each of us realize that we live in the created world that is partly of our own doing, would we participate – imagine and make visible – one that was inspired by the beautiful? Would that change our experience of ourselves, our situations, our environment…the choices we make, the conversations we have, the things we build, and the people we welcome? “Our life is what our thoughts make it.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations) I would love to see how your experience of beauty transforms our world.
Rita Patel is a self-taught mixed-media artist whose works incorporate surface design, abstract painting, illustration, and relational art. She was drawn to the visual arts to express what she felt beyond words in hopes that her art would be conduit to connect more deeply. Rita’s work asks the question: what if we could transform the world by experiencing beauty? It is a source of inspiration informing her creative process intersecting beauty, wellbeing (social, emotional, and mental) and creativity. Some of her trainings and workshops are Beauty as a Leadership Strategy, Cultivating Creative Capacity in a VUCA World, Relational Storytelling for Organizational Thriving and On Play/Becoming an Artist: Creativity Confidence and Leadership.
Rita is the founder of Experiments in Beautiful Thinking and of Relational Waste. She holds a Masters in Public Health from Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, with a focus on Quality of Life. She is trained in Conversational Leadership by poet David Whyte and is certified in Enchantivism and the Creative Problem Solving method. Rita also is a CPA, Certified Workplace Wellness Program Manager, and Public Health and Wellbeing Specialist. She works as an individual coach and consultant and her projects are both corporate and community based. Each is a form of Enchantivism – invitations for people to expand their creative capacity and discover themselves and each other for vitality and collective thriving through new ways of storytelling. (website, Instagram, LinkedIn)