I sat on the edge of my seat, staring into my dad’s dark brown eyes for the first time in seven months, repeating internally, “See the beauty.” Little did I know the power of the intention behind these three simple words.
My dad was in his new home, and probably his last. In the past seven months, he was found passed out in his one-bedroom assisted living apartment, was hospitalized, was taken to a rehab center, and survived COVID. A man with nine lives and some of the robust genes, I know. Illness and fear of death were nothing new for him or me.
The decades of disease and the accumulation of a stroke, brain cancer, effects of COVID, and isolation left my dad immobile – physically and mentally. His memory has faded significantly, and conversations are challenging and minimal. He, no longer the father I once knew, and I, no longer the daughter we both once knew. It is not only our past stories and qualities that bind us; it is our soul contract and love that will never fade or die.
That moment would be what my teacher calls “pushing the edge of practice.” How would I react to seeing my father? How would I hold presence with his suffering and my own? Would I be sad or angry, critical, and irritated, like times before?
It turns out that day would be one of the most inspiring and beautiful moments of my life and one I will not forget.
On the day of the visit, I would wake and move through my morning ritual of yoga and meditation, writing, and intention setting. My primary aspiration for the day: to see the beauty in others.
I was present and patient throughout our visit, curious and open. I embraced the suffering and circumstances of our lives. I discovered ways to connect without conversation — I held his hand and kissed his cheek. I shared pictures of Jax (my cat) and videos of Cody and me riding and watched the delight in his eyes as he shared his memory of riding a horse as a young man.
Seeing the beauty in suffering is an ambitious and brave spiritual practice. It takes willingness and a hefty dose of compassion. It is not for the faint of heart. To reject a part of ourselves or another because we do not agree or understand one’s choices or journey or resist our suffering and discomfort and that of another does not offer the quality of pure and unconditional love.
The capacity to witness the beauty in others and in the moment is alive in us. It is a practice and skill we can unlock and develop.
When we can aspire to see the beauty in ourselves and others, our world expands, blooms, and brightens. We awaken to sacred connection, leaving little room for the coloring of condition, judgment, or opinion. It is the doorway to accepting what is and witnessing the elusive beauty and peace we misplace when caught up in the past or future.