Beauty is power. Big time. Especially in our culture that places such an emphasis on it. Being physically beautiful can get a person a job, a lover, admiration, validation, and open doors that are closed to the less physically attractive.
My beloved friend Cedar Barstow has developed an extraordinarily insightful system of ethics that she calls “the right use of power.” She has founded an organization, Right Use of Power Institute, and trained many teachers nationally and internationally in her work. She expresses the essence of right use of power thus: “Power guided by loving concern for the well being of all . . . Power directed by heart. Heart infused with power.”
It is not hard to think of misuses of the power of personal beauty. We hear of it all the time—manipulation, seduction, entitlement, domination, putting down one perceived to be less beautiful.
What then is the right use of the power of personal beauty? How can we use it to benefit others?
First of all we must let go of ego identification with our beauty, (see my recent blog, Beauty is Dangerous,) then humbly receive it as a gift.
I was walking around Wonderland Lake a few days ago with Cedar, brainstorming on this question. A little girl in bright pink slacks whizzed by on her scooter, blond hair flying, little body light and lively, swift, graceful motion. My heart lifted. I turned to share a smile with Cedar.
In the same way my heart lifts when I see the shining eyes of my grandchildren. Or when I go to a tango dance and delight in the beautiful clothes the dancers are wearing and the grace and precision of their movement.
We have an expression “eye candy.” The sight of a handsome man or a beautiful woman is sweet.
Beauty delights, and one right use of its power is to let it shine.
But there is a deeper question. What is beauty really?
Is it a culturally approved shape of nose, eyes, lips, body? I think not. That is fashion. Fashion changes all the time, and in my experience only occasionally aligns with beauty. I noticed, when I was studying fashion magazines to better understand this question, that most of the models looked sullen. It seems pouting is fashionable nowadays. But I do not think it is beautiful.
No matter what the shape of nose or body, people shine with beauty when they are happy or filled with enthusiasm.
This kind of beauty attracts, draws people to us. Then if we have something to share, if we are teachers, therapists, artists, or business people with a good idea, we have the opportunity to enrich the lives of those drawn to us because of our gift of personal beauty.
The give and take in such a situation creates connection. Those drawn to us appreciate us, and that appreciation opens us to give more freely. Connection is something we all long for. Shining and sharing in this way, is another right use of the power of beauty.
There is a deeper level still.
My friend Charly Heavenrich is a canyon guide and has for many years taken people on raft trips down the Grand Canyon. He tells me that after a week or so, all the faces of the people in his group are beautiful, stripped of the stress of their usual lives and filled with awe at the magnificence of the canyon.
I have seen that same kind of beauty in the faces of those with whom I have shared a meditation retreat or a Summer Solstice long dance.
Perhaps the most profound way to use the power of beauty is to seek out and develop those experiences and practices that clear away the debris, so that our true selves, our essence, Love, God within us can shine forth.
Then all in our presence are blessed.