(Self) Cultivation

My youngest son is pressing hard for a septum piercing. Although I personally am not a fan of this particular embellishment, I’m coming to terms with his desire to have his 17 y/o body adorned in such a fashion. It’s his body and choice to make. I’ll have to respect that decision.

The days of my being responsible for my children’s appearances are over. The indestructible Gap overalls, sweet sun hats and adorable outfits have long been packed away, or passed on to friends, replaced with wide legged jeans and ironic t-shirts. How my sons wish to present themselves to the world is now completely in their hands.

Their “look” is their own to cultivate.

In recent weeks, as I’ve struggled with my son’s wish for a piece of metal to decorate his perfect nose, I’ve been thinking about how we each cultivate the way we present ourselves to the world. We choose our attire, hairstyles and accessories as a means of reflecting who and how we identify ourselves.

The energy and thought we put into how we look to others can be time consuming. Projecting our best appearance can take some work, particularly as we age and begin to rue our previously blasé attitude with regards to sunscreen and dental floss.

I can easily recall my own teen years and the need I had for Jordache jeans and contact lenses. However, as I’ve grown older, I’ve learned that if I cultivate what’s on the inside of me, the comfort I feel with how I look on the outside expands. When I pursue what makes me feel happy, things like time shared with those I love, traveling, fresh air, good food and wine, I’m at my best and that radiates – regardless of what I happen to be wearing.

My initial thoughts were focused upon the choices we make which determine our physical appearance, (my son’s upcoming maiming piercing, for example), but my mind has gone to a different place and I’ve got a question…

How much time do you spend thinking about how you want to look compared to who you want be?

While it’s normal for people to concern themselves with how they look, when we focus a significant amount of our time and attention upon our external appearance, it can be a distraction from other important work we might be doing – that of cultivating our inner selves.

If there’s one thing I learned from my childhood, it’s that we each have a choice about what we decide to hold on to, where we want to place our energy when it comes to nurturing the emotions which arise as we travel through our lives.

For some, like my own mother, the choice is to cling tightly to hurt feelings and experiences that prompt bitterness and resentment. Others I know opt to maintain an unrelenting grip upon self pity or anger, emotions which they curate with a vengeance at the expense of the opportunity to embrace more positive sentiments.

Obviously, all people struggle with negative thoughts and feelings. But, when you only have a finite amount of life to live, what is it that you want to cultivate in that limited time? Pierced noses and designer jeans may look good, but little in life is as attractive as internal happiness. That’s what I intend to continue to cultivate. How about you?

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