What is Radical Beauty?

Belief cogwheels

What is radical beauty, anyway?


Have you wondered why change is difficult? Say you have a personal computer that you purchased in 1990. Over the years, you’ve tried updating the software and the hardware with state-of-the-art monitors, keyboards and jazzy little gadgets. You expect every upgrade to be the ultimate fix, the one that will change how your PC behaves. Much to your chagrin, it continues to behave as it did in 1990, refusing to enter the 21st century. Exasperated, you finally call your geeky friend. You get the diagnosis and treatment – your PC needs a a major upgrade of its operating system.

Similarly, we upgrade our hardware and software in our search for contentment. We look for lasting happiness in a certain body weight, a specific bank balance, a particular spiritual status and so on. From an early age, our parents and peers teach us that there are things we must achieve in order to be happy. We innocently believe that these things will win us approval from others (and ourselves) and then we will be happy. Then we can rest. Like mirages in a desert, these desired goals keep shifting. For instance, immediately after we lose weight, we fear putting it back on. Now we strive to maintain it, obsessing about every morsel and calorie. The happiness and rest that we thought we would obtain from the desired body weight are nowhere to be found. Just as we near our goal, it shifts and the chase begins again.

Once, a monk was passing by a village when he saw a woman frantically searching for something under a street light. He stopped to ask her what she was looking for. She responded, “I am a seamstress by trade, and have lost my treasured embroidery needle. I must find it to keep my job.” Overcome with compassion, the monk joined in the search. They spent an hour crawling around on the street. Finally, he asked her if she remembered where exactly she had dropped it. She said, “Of course! It was in my house!” Astounded, the monk asked, “Why then are you searching for it here on the street?!” She responded, “Well, because the lighting in my house is very poor!”

Our hardware and software updates are akin to looking under a street lamp for a needle lost at home. We can search all we want, but we won’t find it there. Every glinting object under the street lamp can induce hope that it is the needle, but again and again, we find that it is not “it.” So it is with looking for happiness in the way we are taught to. No matter how hard we try, it remains elusive. This is because we are searching in the wrong place! For lasting change, we need to upgrade our operating system to one that can show us where we lost the needle.

Our operating system is a tightly-wound ball of beliefs such as “I am the body,” “I am a man,” “I am a woman,” “I am fat,” “I am a heart patient,” “I am a cancer survivor,” “I am a successful entrepreneur,” “I am not a good parent,” “I am a spiritual seeker,” and so on. These deeply treasured concepts drive our actions, habits and destiny. While it may initially seem like it is better to have “positive” beliefs rather than “negative” ones, all beliefs ultimately hinder the discovery of eternal peace and joy.

Radical Beauty is an invitation to upgrade your operating system. Through radical deconstruction of the beliefs and ideals we take to be true, we discover unfathomable beauty.  This beauty is not about hair, skin, body, bank balance, achievements or societal approval. It is the delight that saturates every molecule of the cosmos. This delightful beauty is who we really are, hidden underneath the layers of concepts and beliefs.

Welcome. Read. Practice. Discover Radical Beauty.

photo credit: Click here.