“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, my mother used to tell me, as she watched me with some perplexity while I painstakingly painted Twiggy eyelashes around my eyes. “Oh mom,” I would sigh in my most grown-up voice at the venerable age of 16. What did she know about beauty? She who never wore any make-up and had short cropped white hair. Now when I conjure her face, with her twinkling blue eyes, I think of it as the most beautiful in the world. And I am sure she could still look past my ridiculous war paint and find me beautiful. Such is the power of love.

If a tree is beautiful, but it is not seen or appreciated, is it still beautiful? The act of seeing another with mindful presence is such a gift of love. As we become tired and worn out by the trials of everyday life, we too often forget to look at the people around us with a loving regard. Somehow this becomes particularly poignant when it comes to the people we are closest to, the ones we are most familiar with, the ones we expect to accept us, warts and all.

I was reminded of this recently when I cam across a quote of Anais Nin’s:

“Love never dies of a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source, it dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds. It dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings, but never of natural death.”

As I work with couples who have been ground down by the day to day chores, ongoing stress and the complexities of life, I wonder if it all boils down to this simple but powerful act of seeing with love. In order to see with love and compassion, we have to let love touch us and open our hearts. The incredible thing is that it is always there, waiting – like the Beloved that Rumi references in so much of his poetry.

This is a private but universal moment that can transform you in an instant. It feels like it comes from outside of you – in the twinkle of a stranger’s smile, the beauty of a tree, the softness of a baby’s skin or the warm intelligence in an animal’s eyes. But in that very instant, there is a reciprocal opening in your heart. Notice that golden moment and guard that beauty in your heart. The next time you look or speak to your partner, bring the gift of that golden openness to your touch, your words, your seeing. You might be very surprised how transformative that moment can be.

This poem by Rumi:

Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
Don’t try to see through the distances,
That’s not for human beings.
Move within, but don’t move
the way fear makes you move.

Today, like every other day, we wake up empty
and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study
and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

(translation by Coleman Barks)