Beauty

I've just returned from a glorious week on Maui, co-hosting the annual Aloha Girls Retreat with Brigitta Winkler. Our time together with 22 creative and inspiring tango women was full of playful and productive dancing in our two private studio spaces, new and deepening friendships, and exquisite vistas from Maui's sparkling, turquoise beaches to her lush green highlands.

I was, yet again, overwhelmed by the beauty of the island, but what was even stronger for me this year was feeling this sense of beauty begin to seep into my own skin, remembering on a cellular level to truly feel and know my own beauty as a woman.

I will not list here the many ways women are trained to loathe themselves and their bodies. Those old patterns float around in all of us to some extent, no matter what our age or background, like environmental pollution. Instead, I will share the ways that mother Maui gently peeled back yet another layer for me in the "onion project" of self-acceptance and self-celebration.

Nature wisdom is one of our oldest and most basic sources of insight, and so I've organized my thoughts here in response to the elements that spoke to me most clearly on this visit:

WINDS: There are thousands of traditional songs and chants that honor the breezes that flow over the islands. We are, after all, in the middle of the Pacific ocean. The air is never still. This constant caress on the skin awakens my nervous system, makes me aware of the soft surfaces of my body and of its delicate presence on the earth, in the room, on the dance floor. It's a gentle sensation, like being washed in an energy bath over and over again, each moment carrying away tiny strands of self-doubt, hesitation, and self-consciousness. Every day I felt more loving toward my physical body, more comfortable in my own skin, more sure of my barefoot steps on grass, sand, and stone.

PLANTS: The overflowing tropical green leafy-ness of Maui surrounded and held us from arrival to departure. But the irresistible allure of the flowers captivated my attention. On Maui flowers burst forth from trees and bushes in explosive yellows, pinks, and reds in spectacular and unabashed splendor. LOOK AT ME! They seem to be saying. I AM BEAUTIFUL. My tuberose lei filled my bedroom with its singular perfume, and I feel asleep in a divine cloud of scent knowing that my most essential job in the morning would be simply to receive the light of the new day. I try now to remember the flowers, how exuberant their opening, how natural their sensuality. I want that joyful, expansive, sensual quality to exist in me, too. Perhaps one day I will even step onto the dance floor, or onto the sidewalk, and announce telepathically to the world, Look at me, I am beautiful.

WAVES: The ultimate model of beauty, perhaps, is the ebb and flow of water. We change constantly, both in body, mind, and spirit. Our graceful flowing from one year to the next, from one moment to the next, from one step to the next, is one definitive and personal way to claim our beauty and grace as dancers and as women. One morning I watched the waves for nearly 30 minutes and had no sense of time passing. Their elegant rolling is a continuous work of live kinetic art. I practice imagining my life that way, and I aspire to the ocean's ease with changes of all kinds, whether in my physical form, my perspective, my occupation, my home, or anything else.

How has nature inspired your sense of beauty? Leave your thoughts in the comments.