I was watching my daughters play and at one point, my youngest takes a brush and begins combing her hair. There was a soft, swiftness to the movement as each strand of ringlet separated and stretched and recoiled back into its soft curl. My oldest daughter, observing this said to her, “You are brushing your hair so beautifully”. The term beautifully is common in our home as it is how our youngest (just turned three) says the word beautiful, she will always say it as a doing word, “beautifully” and thus we have all adopted it.
This comment, I thought, was such a unique phrase and got me thinking of the way in which we view, experience, and understand beauty in today's society.
The Oxford Dictionary defines beauty as: a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
Beauty is, as the definition suggests, a sensual experience, an appeal to the senses, especially sight. But rarely is it attributed to an action.
I acknowledge that in my daughter’s use of the word she transformed it into an adverb, qualifying the actions she sees around her, their observation and this new coined word sent me down a rabbit hole about what we often qualify as beauty or beautiful.
Beauty in our standard definition is often still life. It is something inanimate that is admired, that sits, stands, is there for our pleasure. But rarely is beauty considered an experience. Beauty is oftentimes a finished product. We would normally qualify the hair as beautiful once it was finished being brushed, free of any and all tangles and roughness. A final, completed piece of artwork, is when we might incite the quality of beauty.
But rarely is it in the process.
This metaphor can be applied to the creative process in any discipline and to any degree. The truth is that we rarely see anything but the finished product; the behind the scenes is kept hidden until it is completed and therefore worthy enough to be seen. As if the process of becoming lacked any and all emotion, it is only the final product that might evoke or titillate the senses.
The process of creating, of doing, of acting, is often fraught with hardship, bumps in the road, set backs, sadness, fear – each in excess of everything we don’t want life to be. Emotions that we want to keep hidden, out of shame, or because society says that these are private.
But what if the process could be beautiful? What if we instead sought out the beauty in the process, in the acting, in the doing? What if we rearranged it so that the emotions of fear or the experience of hardship could be held and quelled in a beautiful process?
That is what I use the Art of Ritual for. It is not only a moment of pause but a moment to infuse beauty into my experience. Because beauty is not only on the surface, not just the final product. This idea of beauty is often what makes it superficial. Beauty is the act of arranging and curating and the intentionally bringing together of things that please and indulge your senses.
This is what I value The Art of Ritual for and why I dedicated my life’s work to supporting your discovery of it. In my practice, Ritual allows us to create moments in space to access the inherent magick within you, because of you, created by you.
Beauty is in the act of creation.
Creating personal rituals and altars, give way to the beauty that is creation.
For example, if you are a writer and have it in your mind to write a book, it is not that book that should be qualified as beautiful but the process that took you to it. The process of sitting and writing each day, of lighting a candle, setting up your space by the window, of perfuming your surroundings with incense and ritual smoke, of setting down your notes into a leather bound notebook, written in with an exquisite vintage pen, having instrumental music serenading you as you write… it is the experience that you create that makes the process beautiful.
Beauty is in the experience, the process, the act. And The Art of Ritual safeguards that beauty as moments and experiences that are cherished beyond the final product, and that ultimately make the final product worthy to you. It is what gives the item or offering depth, because reverence and intention has been imprinted into every step of its creation. That is something nobody can ever replicate, it is something that only comes from the continual evolution of creating through something you are experiencing or have experienced in your own life.
I would like to invite you to use ritual in your life and try to set some time apart as a sacred space; I invite you to use it to recenter yourself and to allow crashing thoughts to melt away. Self practice in the form of ritual can open our hearts to new possibilities. It allows us to see with fresh clarity, self enquiry and brings us to a space of liminality.