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How Beautiful She Must Have Been

“How beautiful she must have been, he thought, reflecting at the same time that this was truly a dreadful thing to say of a woman, as if beauty were necessarily and invariably confined to youth.” — Ruth Rendell, The Monster in the Box

How can a woman first feel her own beauty, know it, live in it, before the witnesses, known and unknown, begin to parade their more or less appropriative gaze across our bodies? Culture designates that the appearance of a woman exceeds all else, and it is our youthful beauty that is most prized. Eyes latch on, grasp, grip, grind. We are invited or rejected. We ‘work’ this or don’t, but it is impossible to avoid. Eyes stealing beauty, steal soul as well. It is a serious though common offense to steal a woman’s beauty, and for a woman to let it be stolen. We go hungry. (Another stealer/spoiler: the average camera. It doesn’t do so well with sags and wrinkles, but neither can it catch starry skies, nightscapes, or wavering seaweed under the water. It misses some very beautiful things. )

In Dancemeditation, we close our eyes and move, feeling what we are doing, and tune our awareness to an eyeless world. Our other four senses resuscitate. We relocate. We root. As we digest self as sensation, motion, texture, scent, the visual and cognitive aspects recede, becoming proportionally smaller in our identification of self. Simultaneously, this non-visual, elongated, un-judged experience magnifies the alterior aspects of self. We are the sensation of ourselves, not only what we think or see that we are. (Or for that matter, what others think or see that we are.)

Most important, as our own beauty becomes associated with a filled-out interior world — our beautiful inner state, a touch that we find beautiful, or scent, taste, sound — beauty belongs to us, and beauty is where we belong. We reclaim stolen beauty. If it was a land we weren’t allowed to inhabit, we are now in perfect residence. Beauty is our home.

A woman’s beauty must always be, first, a subjective discovery and, second, a witnessed corroboration. Discovering her beauty is a journey involving all five senses and a reflective mind. Being witnessed thereafter is a delicate honor.

What is your beauty?

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    7 Comments
    1. Anita Teresa #

      Hmm, interesting thoughts on beauty. Am meditating a lot on beauty these days. Have a different take at the moment on this topic:
      One of my favorite books is “Portrait of Jenny,” (now out-of-print) that I scarfed down in one ravenous bite about 8 years ago in my grandfather’s old library in Germany. One quote I remember that always stuck with me is something like, “Beauty is truth and truth beauty…that’s all there is and all you need to know.” Over the years I’ve pondered this, played with it. Then just recently it occurred to me that beauty is somehow the feminine aspect of truth. If truth is a sword, then beauty is the jeweled hilt and shimmering surface of the steel. Beauty is somehow the splendor of truth’s essence and vigor. If truth is strength and penetrative action and fire, beauty is the final end result of freedom, purity, transformation, and bliss. They are bedmates, truth and beauty. The masculine and feminine aspects of the Divine.

      October 6, 2010
    2. Brings to mind jamal/jallal. But do you really like the pairing of truth as masculine and beauty as feminine?

      October 6, 2010
    3. Aliandra Starre #

      I ponder this subject often. One thing I do know for sure, myself, is that beauty is not always pretty. That’s how it’s the truth, and not the surface of things. Hmm…I suppose it infuses the surface.

      October 6, 2010
    4. Beauty as a filled-out interior….it’s true. As an older woman, no man, no compliments, no fame could fill the hole that was there around beauty, being a woman, having a beautiful mother, not feeling beautiful, not being able to maintain the feeling when I did…..but seeking within through practice, dancemeditation, has soothed my heart so….I feel beautiful at summer monastery, and I see the beauty of the others around me…..it’s inward. Interesting, too, what menopause brings to women also; because youthful beauty must be let go of….it isn’t possible to keep, not even with plastic surgery…..

      October 19, 2010
    5. It is a hard, angry-fying subject for me write about, but Rendell’s softly tucked-in reflection (her aging male detective Wexford thinks this thought and from his mind it becomes almost pity) inspired me to tackle it. I agree–we have to let go. We have to. And it is quite hard. I never knew how much I identified with these small continuous tributes to my more beautiful youth. No matter how much I mentally scoff at them, gap grows inside my daily experience that was once filled with the mindless, regular, admiring glances of men that bruises my heart. A form of cultural rejection, and it is always hard to be rejected, hard to be less valued. I’ve felt sadness, rage, but turn with energy toward re-inventing a self that is in a large part concerned with dissolving the self.
      Dancemeditation helps as this personalized cultural drama plays out on the field of my body. Embodied re-identification and maturation is a balm. Because it is truth.

      October 20, 2010
    6. That was the hardest thing for me to let go of: the admiration I’d received as a younger woman. I hadn’t realized how much I relied on it. But with the fact that I no longer received it as a matter of course, when I could get beyond the pain of that and accept it, I realized how much that admiration had kept me from being authentic, because I went into situations unconsciously looking for it, being hurt if I didn’t get it, and trying to get it sometimes, all of this on a level I wasn’t really aware of, but a very distracting level. For example, if I were in a business meeting, a man could throw me off track by flirting or I’d wonder if anyone thought I was attractive, that kind of thing. I’m not certain how much is cultural and how much may be natural, part of youth. I do know I have an inner freedom now that I relish. Would I have attained that freedom earlier if I’d had a spiritual life as a younger woman? I don’t know…..but it is a lovely freedom…..

      October 20, 2010
    7. I love your description of how the admiration thing worked inside of you. And how you grow now. I love the soft ambiguity there, because how can we ever know what was really going on? There is something very forgiving of yourself for all the unclarity that life is, as well as growing satisfaction.
      I am reminded of much more freedom I feel now as well. A pressure being lifted. Thanks for this! Blog therapy. 8>)

      October 20, 2010

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