“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” -Anne Morrow Lindbergh
One afternoon several years ago, I awoke from a gentle nap and, without conscious thought, these words came floating up in my mind: “Every moment of stepping through God I am born.” I am not usually so spontaneously poetic. More a Buddhist by inclination, I do not often refer to the word “God.” However, I was delighted and surprised by this collection of words! I am borrowing a few of them for my title: “Stepping Through Beauty: A Focusing-oriented Exploration” carries forward my sense of how very beautiful the world is, with all its lights and the darks, and how we move through it in all of our situations and relationships.
This blog comes out of my preparations for and experience with giving a workshop for psychotherapists at the Second World Conference on Focusing Oriented Psychotherapies in Stony Point, NY in November 2011. My experiential workshop, “The Experience of Beauty in Focusing Oriented Psychotherapy,” began to address how attuned interactions create restorative experiences and “felt shifts” in us. Such felt moments can bring light to dark places and tip the balance towards the beautiful.
We experienced this in the workshop, as people’s thoughts, ideas, feelings and “felt-senses” were met with open, friendly, inclusive, reflective reception. We focused, formulated ideas, appreciated and spoke of experiences of “no-beauty”, the ephemeral nature of beauty, and beauty in psychotherapy and our lives.
Though very inspired by my topic since naming it a few months before the conference, I began to arrange my outline for the workshop just days ahead. I was very busy collecting my thoughts during that time: thinking about, dreaming of, experiencing and appreciating beauty. Clearly, something in me has been moving towards this particular workshop all my life! My earliest memories of experiences of beauty occurred in relation to others and so exploring the topic of beauty with others excites me.
In my mid twenties, I wanted to help people and this led me to volunteer for a suicide telephone hot-line in NYC. With very little training, I was placed before a ringing phone during the night shift. Wow…I was scared! The first person who called told me they wanted to die and had just taken a handful of pills. I felt that both of our lives were on the line! As her voice slurred, improvising, I told the young woman that in essence she was an innocent, beautiful child and that, even though she had clearly experienced very painful things, with some help, she could start freshly and have a whole new beginning. She hung up on me. I was devastated.
I went on to answer other calls and when she called me back to say she believed me and that she had called an ambulance for help, I knew I was in the right place. I could use myself to assist someone else. In that experience I saw beauty in another and myself. This is an example of what I am now calling “beauty-in-interaction,” when relating is most nurturing.
Skip a few years: While working as a psychotherapist, I found myself longing to know how to draw well, and began studying realism in art. Since then, I have been gaining skill and learning about how growth happens in art. This has greatly influenced my work as a psychotherapist. Being engaged with the process of drawing and painting, and learning to appreciate masterful art, has revealed much to me about the beauty of being a living human being. My two passions, psychotherapy and art, are finding a way to come together in my explorations about the meaning and value of beauty in our lives.
I am so very grateful to those who participated in my workshop, for you brought a warmth and realism to my topic that I would not have without our having had our inspired time together. I was took this photograph of the gorgeous scene at the top of this blog while taking a walk alone in the woods after our workshop. It reminds me of the glow I was in, delighted to be alive and “stepping through beauty.”
Is beauty hidden, until it reveals itself?
What is beautiful that inspires you? What inspires you about beauty?
“The Present Tense” (Oil on Masonite) © Marissa Bridge 11/2011
Photographic Image: “Gabby” © A. Kappy 11/2011
Portrait of Tram (Pencil on Paper) © Robin Kappy 11/2011