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Skillful Perception: Seeing Beauty

by Michael Finkelstein, MD

The lotus – a very powerful image in some cultures – roots in mud, and out of the murky water, it produces a most beautiful flower. The symbol of the lotus assures us that a person can rise above being rooted in the messiness, suffering and "imperfection" in the world.

People in our culture often strive for an elusive ideal of perfection; and as long as they perceive their lives as less than "perfect," they are unable to be truly content. The problem is that nothing is perfect in this sense, and as long as we hold onto that false belief we will remain in a vicious cycle of frustration and despair. The irony is that this perceived imperfection is actually what makes the world perfect--the fact being, sometimes we need the messiness to flower and reach our fullest potential.

Instead of focusing our energies on trying to achieve the impossible state of "perfection," we should realize that beauty can be found in unexpected places. And rather than focusing on what makes something, someone or a situation less than perfect, it is more fruitful to search for that which makes them beautiful. Don't just look at the muddy water; appreciate the exquisite lotus that grows out of it. By actively seeking positivity in this way you make the choice to rise above negativity and grow into something more beautiful yourself. This is choosing to live skillfully.

But sometimes the bad habit of looking at the negative or ugly things in life becomes so ingrained that we forget to look at the beauty.

Frequently, complaining is an expression of frustration with life's obstacles. We complain about our bosses, friends and relatives. We complain about finances. Or, we become exasperated with the status quo. "Life is not fair" is something I hear often.

Complaints often result when we fail to recognize that we have more choices than we are willing or able to consider. Perhaps the biggest obstacle in our path is our tendency to feel victimized or deficient in some way. And we put so much energy into maintaining the victim/deficient mindset that we lose sight of the alternatives, which are often staring us right in the face. It's like looking only at the mud and failing to see the beautiful lotus growing out of it.

Every day, we see examples of people who are impoverished in some manner but who seem content and whose lives are filled with beauty; whereas, others wallow in their condition and are more affected by their circumstances. If it is true that we create our own reality, we can avoid or transcend life's impediments. Sadly, we do not always do this. Our shared empathy for society's downtrodden frequently morphs into pity, blinding us to the wisdom and power of contentment.

The key is first to do some self-reflection; to look in the mirror, accept your situation and search for opportunities to be yourself more completely. Make the effort. Do not assume you are handcuffed because there are numerous barriers in your way. Follow the example of others who have also been in challenging situations, yet who managed to find balance, happiness and peace. Crises offer us golden moments for growth and development. Sometimes they are the mud that brings sustenance to a beautiful flower.

MICHAEL FINKELSTEIN, M.D., is the former Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Chief of the Departments of Medicine and Integrative Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, New York. After 20 years in the allopathic medical community, he left these positions to pursue a more intuitive and holistic approach to his work, as the founder and director of SunRaven, a wellness center in Bedford, NY. He is also a nationally recognized radio show host, inspirational speaker and blogger whose concept of “Skillful Living” applies his holistic approach to overall health and well-being: the business of living must be developed, like a skill, with mindful, dedicated attention. Please visit www.SunRaven.org for more information or to sign up for Dr. Finkelstein’s bi-monthly “Moon News” newsletter.

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