Or is beauty in the eye of the beer holder?
As I got dressed this morning after showering, I put on my new jeans and a flannel shirt that my Wife had pressed so beautifully for me. She looked at me and said “Honey, you look really hot today!”. I turned and looked in the mirror, and had to agree with her, I was looking pretty darn good today. “Not bad for a 56-year-old man”, I thought to myself. I then proceeded downstairs to sit and do my daily practice.
As I began meditation, thoughts of impermanence were very strong. Perhaps because of my recent emergency room visit, but maybe just because of my Wife’s comment. Regardless, my meditation always involves observing the three marks of existence (Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta) which are impermanence, suffering and No-Self. And with some regularity, I spend some time really focusing on the decay and disgusting composition of my body. Now I would not recommend this to everyone, but based on my character (carita), I find this to be very beneficial. You see the body is made up of cells that are all dying and decaying. Also, our body is filled with blood, puss, bile, sinew and various other elements that are anything but attractive or beautiful to most of us.
And as I observed this reality, those words of looking “hot” today came to mind. Realizing instantly that we all have such powerful perceptions based on illusion, with beauty being only one of these. Seeing what we want to see and avoiding the rest.
At the same time, thoughts arose of the night before when the young(ish) female Doctor kept using the phrase “a man of your age”. Obviously, in her view I am an old guy, yet in my mind I am still a young man. Which one of us is correct?
The truth is, our perceptions are always delusion and they prevent us from accepting this life without desire or aversion. Additionally it is always, without exception, our own lack of understanding and acceptance that causes all of our dissatisfaction. Beauty itself is merely an illusion propagated by a lack of complete awareness (sati-sampajañña). These habitual thoughts, mental formations and actions (sankara) are recurring with every moment that we are alive. And I believe it is only through diligent practice that we can begin to lift the veil of illusion and see this life as it really is. Perhaps in finding that, we can all see and understand the true meaning of beauty.