Towards the end of one of my retreats, someone made the comment that 'everyone looks more beautiful now'. And it was true. It is, I have discovered, one of the happy side-effects of uncovering something that is real and true about ourselves.
The human face, more than anything else, reveals so much about a person's inner life. It is surprising how quickly the face regains some of its natural radiance when we shed a significant portion of our emotional and psychological baggage.
Nowadays, many people assume that the accumulation of lines and tensions in the face are the result of the ageing process, and an increasing number are resorting to the needle and the knife to try and retain a youthful appearance.
Yet we have all met individuals of advanced years whose inner beauty shines through without any help from a plastic surgeon. In many cases, the person's face has a glow to it that increases rather than diminishes with age. How, you may wonder, does that happen?
Of course there are constitutional, dietary and lifestyle factors that will contribute to or detract from a healthy appearance. But I think there is something else that is just as visible in the eyes and facial expression that reflects the presence - or absence - of such attributes as inner contentment, self-acceptance and fulfillment in life.
There is, it seems, no faking of these internal qualities and the natural beauty that goes with them. Trying to be something that you are not is exhausting, and no matter how well polished it may be, every mask will begin to slip away eventually to reveal a deeper truth.
A zen koan states:
'Show me your original face - the one you had before you were born!'
That 'original face' is, I believe, the one that remains when we are no longer living in a way which is out of synch with our true nature.
In my workshops I am often struck by how diligently we hold onto our masks and the painful memories that lie behind them. And then, as we relax the grip and let the false selves fall away, something magical happens. We take a faltering step towards embracing the wise and wonderful being that we truly are. And without making any effort to do so, we become a little more beautiful.