Today I had an errand to run in a nearby larger town – a working-class place; defined by industrial estates, a busy shopping area and an airport on its outskirts. Surrounded by the gentle rolling English countryside, it stands out harshly, like the proverbial sore thumb.
Yet, on its south western edge, are the Downs – a surprisingly high range of chalk hills. I thought my dog would love a good run up there. Panting, and trudging through a mixture of cattle trodden mud and dung up an incredibly steep hill, I already regretted that misguided flash of inspiration. At the top, I turned to take in the view, and was left breathless.
Not with joy and pleasure, but with repulsed disgust. Beneath me a seemingly endless sprawl of tin warehouse roofs and dirty cottage facades, interspersed in the distance not with trees, but pylons, and run-down high rise apartments – all of this ugliness tightly shackled by grey concrete bands, bursting with incessant traffic seemingly heading nowhere. As if that weren’t enough, the lorries and cars were creating a deafening racket, together with the noise of concrete mixing machines, rubbish trucks, cranes and the occasional siren somewhere in the smoggy haze. Like a scene from a modern adaptation of Dante’s Inferno, it made me wonder at man’s power to create ugliness in the midst of beauty.
There I stood, almost immobilised by this unexpected assault on my senses. But only for a moment; Cookie’s happy bounces and playful, tail-wagging nudges tugged me right out of the doomsday gloom of my thoughts. Watching her race downhill as fast as the ball I threw flicked a switch in my mind and suddenly the world was a beautiful place again.
With nothing but a shift in my attention I became aware of the birdsong from the nearby shrubs, the pastel coloured catkins waving gently at me in the early spring breeze. I noticed the bizarre and beautiful shapes the clouds were sculpting against a bright blue sky as the tender rays of sunshine kissed the back of my neck.
And here I was, on top of the world feeling grateful for these moments of beauty. Thankful for the insight and ability to see what was hidden in the spaces between the ugly patches of what we call civilisation.
It was then that I became aware again that we always have a choice. Whether we know it or not, it is our decision to make a day a great one, to create a horrendous experience or one of personal growth. We have the power to decide whether we see the ugly and hideous or the beauty in the little gaps in-between.
Every day we are faced with hundreds of choices and it is in our minds that we create the kind of life we decide to live. Next time you are in a situation that makes you angry, frustrated or fearful, take a close look and you will most certainly find that, hidden away in there somewhere, is the opportunity to turn it into something great.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to change the world and make it a more beautiful place. If I stay quiet and accept the barbarism, then I too am guilty of abusing the beautiful environment that is our birthright. But you will never change the world if you cannot first change yourself. As Gandhi said, become the change you want to see.
In our coaching work, whether with groups or individuals, we are always amazed at how much more empowered and motivated people feel once they truly understand the power of having a choice. Even an ordinary affirmation can create huge changes when you simply incorporate a choice. Often, it makes a statement more believable.
Try this: think of an affirmation you would like to be true but which isn’t quite yet. This could be something like; ‘I am healthy and fit’, ‘I am wealthy’, ‘I am a perfect size ….’ etc… Now, change it to; ‘I choose to be healthy and fit’, ‘I choose to be wealthy’, ‘I choose to be a perfect size…’.
Can you notice where the power is when you say that? It is within you – all you need to do is make your choice. And from the moment that you make the empowering, positive choices, you’re well on your way to seeing and experiencing the beauty of life.
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Annett Tate helps people find their inner silence through her "Subtle Energy" seminars. Her website is a treasure trove of information on stress management, relaxation, meditation, self-hypnosis, and much more.
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