As I was eating my breakfast the other morning, I happened to look out the window just as the sunlight broke through the clouds and illuminated the snow-covered ground and the icy branches. The effect was like nothing I had ever seen—as though fairies had sprinkled tiny sequins all along the ground and had placed tiny multi-colored lights up in the trees. The glistening image was mesmerizing.

Soon after this magical moment, as the sunlight lessened and the sparkles disappeared, I found myself paying little attention to the more ordinary beauty of the winter day. In my book, Full Cup, Thirsty Spirit, I describe a similar shift in my attention while traveling in Indonesia.

I awoke my first morning to the sounds of strange birds, the smells of exotic spices, and the sights of terraced rice paddies and dirt roads lined with roosters in wicker cages. I was utterly enchanted by the beauty everywhere, in love with this world of new sensory delights. Yet two weeks later, I realized I was walking along the road, stepping around the wicker cages without paying any attention to their presence or to the strange sounds coming from them. How quickly my sense of noticing had worn off as my surroundings faded from novel to familiar.

I’ve often been struck by how easy it is to not really notice the objects that surround us, particularly when they are familiar and not shockingly gorgeous. I’ve been encouraging myself to break out of this habit by looking for the beauty contained in my everyday, familiar life.  This morning, I challenged myself to really take in the colors and textures of the breakfast foods I was preparing. I noticed the scent of the orange juice as I poured it into the blender and the different surfaces of the vegetables as I cut them up to add to my smoothie. I even noticed the beauty of my raw egg as it landed in my frying pan—viewing it as though it was as worthy of my attention as those strange birds and that glistening snow.

Seeing Beauty in the Ordinary 2
See what ordinary things you can pay attention to. How does this way of noticing change your experience of your day?

Karen Horneffer-Ginter has been practicing psychology and teaching yoga and contemplative practices for over 16 years. She has also taught graduate students and health care professionals, along with directing a university-based holistic health care program, and co-founding the Center for Psychotherapy and Wellness in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The aim of Karen's work is to reconnect people with the wisdom of their inner-life by reclaiming what gets lost amidst the busyness of day-to-day life: qualities such as stillness, self-care, creativity, joy, humor, gratitude, and compassion. Her intention is to support people in finding a sense of balance and sacredness in their lives.

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