I’ve been a bit obsessed with kaleidoscopes lately. The more time I spend time with them, the more they teach me.
The word “kaleidoscope” originates from the Greek phrase meaning “beautiful form to see.” It could be describing the entire universe and all it holds — both the light and shadow. At least that’s how it is offered to us, if we choose to see it that way.
The kaleidoscope is a tubelike optical instrument. Ever since its invention in 1816, it has fascinated people. It creates awe and wonder.
It shows us what we don’t always see around us in everyday life — at least not with our human optics. If only we could see everything in a kaleidoscopic way.
While the kaleidoscope’s ever-changing images may seem to be the result of magic, they are actually produced through very common objects (such as buttons or glass beads); equally mundane mirrors to reflect the objects; and just the right angles to do it.
This low-tech “toy” with its infinite beauty and brilliance blends the human with the divine. It is designed to display an endless variety of patterns. You will never see the same one twice.
It is the same with life, which is also constantly changing. It is impossible to hold onto any particular moment, no matter how hard we might want to or try.
The goal of meditation is not to stop time but to be exquisitely aware of and grateful for every unfolding pattern. The kaleidoscope can teach us to do this.
Two people looking at the same collection of everyday objects will see them in very different ways based on their perception … on the experience created in their hearts and minds as they do it. To see that all forms are beautiful, we must view them through the eyes of one … through a kaleidoscope of gratitude.
If you haven’t picked up a kaleidoscope in a while, I invite you to — there are lots online. Buy one for someone as a holiday gift or ask for one yourself.
Spend time with it. Reflect on what you’re seeing and experiencing. Celebrate the kaleidoscope being both educational and entertaining. Appreciate the way it fosters creativity and imagination. Revel in the constant fascination.
When you put it down, see if you can look at life in the same way. Enjoy the ever-changing patterns without being too attached or dismissive of any one of them. Learn to be grateful for whatever is without trying to see it any particular way.
Covid has changed our world with many different patterns — how we live, learn and love … how we celebrate a holiday season in the midst of a pandemic. No matter how hard we try to get our old life back, we are presented with a new design.
I mentioned in a previous post about recently transitioning my mother into assisted living. No matter how beautiful it may be, change is tough. It was for my mom and all of us as we helped her enter this new phase of her life.
At times it didn’t seem like it was going to work. We were holding on too tight to the kaleidoscope. We couldn’t see the beauty in the patterns that were emerging.
The other day my mother looked at me and said, “I can’t believe that when I moved in here, I told everyone how unhappy I was with everything … that I felt like I’d been dropped off at a ‘home.’ Now I think everyone should live like this!”
It was a kaleidoscopic moment. I saw my mother happier and more engaged than she has been in years. She is thriving at Grand Villa. She loves the food. She loves the nurses and other workers. She loves the salon, the general store, the schedule. She loves playing bingo. She loves meeting new friends during excursions to the courtyard. She loves her apartment with the view of the lake — and the way her beloved black cat Zoe has also made it home.
We had Thanksgiving takeout in her downsized apartment with its makeshift kitchen. It was one of the best holidays we’ve ever spent together.
Whether it’s in the kaleidoscope or life, designs or patterns emerge in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they challenge us and make us think or change. Sometimes they surprise us and make us feel alive. Sometimes they take our breath away with their beauty.
It’s important to be grateful for each one — and in our gratitude to find a way to both hold onto them and let go. That is truly the most beautiful way to see.
My blessing for all of you this week is that you realize it’s not about what you see but how you see it.