One Moment of Small Beauty

A friend who lives in the Midwest recently sent me a note: “Today I can see the very first snowdrops bloom near my back door. And the winter aconites (small buttercup-like flowers) are starting to show their tiny yellow buds, jutting barely above the dead brown leaves.”

My friend’s note got me thinking. I live in a place of tremendous beauty, surrounded by rolling hills and water, with a temperate climate that promotes just about everything under the sun to grow and bloom. All “winter” long, English and Gerbera daisies, cineraria, primroses and Tibouchina trees flower, painting my world with color. It wasn’t yet spring, here in Berkeley, and already the plum trees had burst into billowy white blossoms. To say nothing of the brilliant green the hills have turned this winter as a result of the abundant rain. Surrounded by so much that pleases the eye, it’s easy to overlook moments of small beauty. But they are there if we simply readjust our gaze.

Thinking about small beauty brought me back to the inspiration for my book “Small: The Little We Need for Happiness.” A single dried sycamore leaf curled on the sidewalk that woke me up to small in the first place. I cannot explain why I happened to notice that leaf that afternoon. Dried leaves have littered many a sidewalk in my lifetime. But I do know that once I stopped to notice and appreciate the beauty of that one leaf, the universe of small opened itself to me. And once the universe of small invited me in, I was able to notice and appreciate so much more beauty than I had known possible.

To discover this vast and exquisite universe, all you need do is to think small. Go for a walk, anywhere, at any time. In addition to taking note of the larger moments of beauty—a tree in flower, a garden in bloom, the horizon line where earth meets sky—seek out one or two smaller moments to appreciate: a single blossom or leaf on the tree, one plant in the garden, an individual cloud in the sky.

Once you have selected your moment of small beauty, pause for several minutes and acknowledge your pleasure, allowing yourself to become aware of what this pleasure feels like both to your mind and to your body. Just a few moments. Then move on. I wager that wherever you go, for the next bit of time your moment of small beauty will follow you.

That’s all there is to it. Try seeing small in this way for the next few days, and you will have begun your own personal small revolution. This is how it all starts. Invite yourself to see small, then take a short walk with the intention of appreciating a small moment of beauty. Once you encounter that moment, allow yourself to become aware of your pleasure and how this pleasure affects your spirit and your body.

One small moment triggered a revolution in my life. And it can trigger a revolution in yours. All you need to do is join me.

At a Church in Toulouse


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