A Beauty Practice For The Tender-Hearted

Sometimes I have a hard time seeing beauty in the world, is that true for you also?

We seem to get a disproportionate amount of bad news into our sphere just living in this culture. This can make it a battle every day to see the good.

So I decided to take photos of the ways my own life has beauty—like a mantra to remind me. Photos go deeper than mantra–they require you to feel into them before taking them.

On the first day, I realized one thing that’s full of beauty in my life is my dog. His name is Sunny and he’s around ten. We got him as a stray four years ago, so we’ll never know his real age.

Being in a relationship with him is a profound experience. There’s an instinctual level that we understand each other on and it’s a level that I don’t share with other humans.

His language is different to mine and knowing him helps me remember how many different languages of life there are and that just because I don’t understand them doesn’t mean they aren’t valid or important or beautiful.

He’s not one of those cute little accessory dogs—he’s a creature in his own right, fiercely protective and loyal, he makes his own decisions. He’s had his own life experiences that have shaped him into the dog he is, and I respect that.

Sometimes I think we romanticize animals and nature in our new-agey way of thinking. We idealize wolves as powerful and graceful and lions as fierce and loyal. No one ever talks about wolves or lions as being scared and insecure.

We like to think life doesn’t batter animals like it batters us, and they don’t have issues like us. I think we do this because deep down we can’t escape the desire for something pure and untainted by existence, and that’s what we want from the natural world–life in the Garden of Eden before sin and consequence.

But it’s not the truth.

Because the natural world gets battered too, and it has a hard time healing and sometimes, it doesn’t heal. Ever.

I still wake my dog, gently, from his nightmares, when he barks in the middle of the night like he’s trying to run from something that’s attacking him. After almost five years, he still doesn’t feel safe around most people and I wonder whether he’ll ever feel fully safe in the world again.

Despite his fear and insecurity and all the things that hold him back (which hold so much beauty for me, because it means he’s lived), what’s also beautiful about him is he gives fully in the ways that he knows he can.

Is he always open to my love? No, but does he always want me to scratch his chest? Yes.

Is he trying to become a better dog? No, but does he always want to go on walks with me? Yes.

And maybe this is the most we can ask of creatures on this earth sometimes, that they give fully in the ways they know how and with what they have to give.

What is beautiful about your life?

Want more tools and practices in your inbox each week? Sign up to our mailing list!