... An internet friend I knew years ago, who has Native American blood, used to sign his emails Walk in Beauty. I got so used to seeing it that I never thought about it, except it sounded pretty… walking in beauty. I posted a Navajo prayer on my blog a long time back which deals with walking in beauty. There are many different variations of these prayers online I’ve become even more fond of another version in recent times. (I’ve posted that one here below this) What I didn’t know, until very recently, was the history and meaning beyond the Navajo use of the word beauty.
What is beauty? To many people it means something appealing to look at, something pretty or attractive. To others it means something breathtaking and emotionally stirring. I’ve always belonged in the latter camp. I remember commenting when I was much younger about death being beautiful and receiving a few odd looks. I suppose I did sound rather bizarre and morbid, but I had no words then to express what I actually meant – that an eagle diving to grab its prey is terrible beauty, just as there was the day my grandfather kissed my hand and we said goodbye without saying a word. He died the next day, as I knew he would. It was the first time I knew a death before it happened. I ran from it and from him, unable to cope with that burden of knowing, but still so aware of the beauty that had passed between us in that second I’d looked into his eyes and known he was saying goodbye.
Maybe it came from my time in a convent school, with all that emphasis on suffering. Perhaps it’s also because my mom always told me, when I was little, that what a person was inside was more important than what they looked like. Whatever the case I’ve always thought there is an incredible beauty in the spirit of people conquering life’s hardship with courage and grace.
I don’t care what you look like, show me your soul and then I’ll be impressed by your beauty!
But what does beauty mean to the Navajo? What does it really mean to Walk in Beauty?
I went wandering internet pathways this week and discovered that there is no direct translation for the original Navajo word that is used to describe the Navajo ceremony of the Beauty Way. The closest English has is “beauty”, but it is a simple word for a vast concept. To the Navajo, as far as I’ve found, beauty is balance and harmony in every sense. It is the balance of healthy body and a peaceful mind. It is the harmony of wo/man living at one with Nature and everything you can think of related to a perfectly balanced body-mind-spirit. There are websites online discussing how the prayers to walk in beauty were used to help returning soldiers come to terms with the horror of war and learn to be balanced in normal life once again. These prayers are also directly linked to health and healing.
To walk in beauty… nothing to do with what you look like, but everything to do with who you are – integrity and honesty at the very soul level; keeping your self balanced and in balance with the world around you. To be beauty full (as my friend Penny puts it) rather than beautiful. It’s quite a daunting path to walk, but what’s the point of life without some challenges?
I think I might give this one a try…