Asleep in Beauty’s Lair

belle endormie, by colodio
belle endormie, by colodio

“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.” ~Arundhati Roy


I was introduced to this amazing woman when I read her first and only novel, The God of Small Things, in 1997.  In this book, Roy writes about the many varied faces of love…and there are many. Her words are beautiful. They are real. They are alive.

When I first read this quote, so many things jumped out at me. I had to read it over and over, letting what she was really imparting, that transmission between the words, fill me with its wisdom.

What I love about her words is the raw truth she shares. In a world that is filled with so many ways to turn away from reality, including the one I’ve flirted with for so long, that of being a spiritual seeker, she calls me back to reality. Reality in all its rapturous beauty, vulgar disparity, unspeakable violence. Reality where I am utterly insignificant – simply one of billions of people existing on this planet right now, and just one of a gazillion forms of life on mother earth.

In most places, we’re encouraged to see our specialness, to pump ourselves up with our own importance, breeding a kind of hierarchical sense to one’s existence. To never forget my own insignificance reduces that sense of importance and specialness. Somewhere in this insignificance is true humility…

What comes to me from this quote is her pure love for this life. And her inviting us to open our eyes, our hearts to the fullness of human experience. Opening to life fully, all of it. To embrace the paradox of joy in the saddest places, opening to beauty in the most raw, painful moments of life.


My seeking began at a young age. I grew up in a family without religious dogma. We did go to church, occasionally. At the same time, Mom and Dad had their own belief systems about God. How could you not, growing up in this western culture? The wonderful thing they did pass on was a thirst to know, a longing to know the real God. I remember the longing in my heart, as a young girl, filling me with ache. A longing that kept at me, and kept at me, and kept at me….

Throughout my early adult years, I was busy raising a family, working, building our own home, doing things people do in everyday life. Normal, mundane things. Sometimes the longing would peek through in these simple moments of the day. My heart would ache, tears would well up, a sense of emptiness would make itself known. Immediately, my mind would jump in, wondering what was missing. Thoughts would jump in, convincing me that there was something I had to find ‘out there’, something I would have to do one day, something somewhere that would satisfy this longing. My mind always looked to the future as the storehouse of what my heart was longing for. My heart simply felt emptiness, some deep sadness, aching, hungering, longing…


When my late husband died suddenly, at 4 in the morning, my heart was torn open. His heart gave out, mine tore open. It was a place of no mind. Just sheer raw pain. Enough pain to put me in shock. I wandered in this desert for a long time. I wished I could be more there, more present, more mother, more together; but, I wasn’t.


I searched for a way to live with this ragged, jagged heart, ’cause it wasn’t going away. If I tried to talk myself out of this place, my heart would have no part of it. It knew. It knows. The heart knows the wisdom of grief, the intelligence of the process of moving through it all, the joy that is waiting on the other side, the broken-open heartedness that is waiting if one is willing to keep inviting it in.

I realized the profound beauty in this process of grief and in this place of broken-open heartedness. Others I shared this beauty with couldn’t understand my use of that word. Beauty in grief? Beauty in death? Beauty in such profound pain? Yet, the profound aliveness I finally felt after 38 years of closed-heartedness was breathtakingly beautiful, because of just that…the profound aliveness that poured out of my broken-open heart.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not romanticizing death. I’m not minimizing the pain my children went through, my husband’s mother went through, our family went through, or I went through. Minimizing pain does not bring beauty. Feeling pain does. Indulging in pain, does not bring beauty. Experiencing pain does.

It would have been so easy to die while I was alive. A part of me wanted to. Simply to numb it and get on with life. Many people encouraged that. But something, and it certainly wasn’t my mind, wouldn’t let me…my heart knew the pain was my doorway in, the doorway in to that which I had been longing for.


Nothing in life is a straight linear line. Instead, it seems to move in spirals, in every increasing circles of wisdom and understanding. As the longing grew, I became a seeker. A seeker of that which would satisfy this longing. A seeker of that which would end the pain. A seeker of that which would fill the hole. I was pursuing this ‘beauty to its lair’.

All along I thought “I” was seeking, that I had the power to find this source of beauty. All along I thought my seeking was going to bring home the bounty of beauty, as if I could really find this beauty in its lair and capture it for my own pleasure.

The seeking was trying to ‘do’ the longing in the only way my very humanness could. The seeking was necessary, but it was never in charge. The seeker can’t find the lair. But the pursuit brings forth beauty. It’s the nature of the paradox of our existence. Both divine and human. Both heart and mind. Both being and doing. The paradox of seeking is that in the seeking we find that which could never be captured, and we find that seeking is really keeping us from that which we seek.


All along what I was seeking was right here within me, surrounding me, hidden in the one place I never thought to look. What I was longing for has been here all the time.

Sometimes it takes going on a hunt for it, pursuing it to land’s end, to know it has been right here all along. Here in the midst of the turmoil. This is the goddess. This is discovering light in all our broken places.

Beauty’s lair is all around us, yet we’ll only catch glimpses until we open to the grace that is always here, the grace that invites us to open our hearts to our own insignificance.

We are swimming in our own insignificance. Just look out your eyes at the wonder life is. We are a tiny insignificant part of this life, yet the paradox is when we realize our insignificance we realize that our being here is immensely significant.


The only thing that causes us to lose this dream Roy speaks of is the belief we are separate. The illusion of separation is what allows us to turn away, to get used to the unspeakable happenings of our time, to believe we are more significant than another being, or even the earth itself.

The only dream worth having is the dream that is no dream. It is the awakening to what is right in front of us, behind us, all around us…the infinite that has no edges, top, bottom…the infinite that is missing nothing, that holds everything.

In this great infinite that is reality, what I am is insignificant, and completely significant. What I have to offer cannot be offered by any other. And in the totality of it all, I am but a drop in the ocean.

My humanness, that insignificance, is the great gift, because there I find humility and awe. To embrace it all, even those things I desperately want to turn away from, is to be in right relationship with life. Joy can be found in those sad places. Suffering can be our doorway in, in to a place of lightness of being, and broken-open-heartedness.


As Roy says, “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”

This is the world of the goddess, the world we awaken to when we come out of our slumber enough to realize that all along we’ve been sleeping in beauty’s lair.


And, you?

I’d love to know what you’ve discovered in beauty’s lair.

image by Colodio, licensed under CC 2.0

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13 Replies to “Asleep in Beauty’s Lair”

  1. Oh, you have said this so well. All of it. Broken open-heartedness. Yes. I have been there. And I, too, discovered that beauty’s lair was within me. For me it took my camera lens, and a similar (although arguably less devastating) loss.

    It seems to me that evey phrase of this post can become another post. An inspiration for a truth-filled conversation. A jumping off post for a new way to define ourselves.

    “And in the totality of it all, I am but a drop in the ocean.”

    And the drop does not know it is not the whole ocean. (I think that is Rumi…)

    You are (we are, each of us and all of us together) the totality of it all *and* a drop in the ocean. Seeking for and harbouring beauty’s lair.

    It is where the contrasts meet, where the contradictions blur, where the colours blend, that our souls are.

    Have you found the wise and wild Ronna Detrick yet?

    Hugs and butterflies,

  2. Beautiful words, Julie. As always, I resonate so strongly w/ what you write, it amazes me how consistently you are able to touch me with your insights, a true gift and I thank-you.

    Brings to mind the lines of T.S. Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”

    Your own personal loss is a devastating blow as it seems to have come so suddenly but you have chosen to use that cracked open heart as an entrance to the divine. Pain and suffering seem to be the only way to learn compassion, true compassion for other living beings and as importantly, ourselves. I lost my brother when he was 24 and I was 26. He drowned in front of me. I was turned inside out w/ grief but by painting his portrait for a full year I discovered how to paint from a deep source. This was his gift to me and it has made the act of painting a sacred one that I am deeply humbled by and grateful for. Humility has it’s roots in gratitude, gratitude for all the beauty and love that surround us, especially in those dark and terrifying moments.

    “For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure…”~Rilke

  3. in beauty’s lair i have discovered
    a soulmate
    i have discovered you
    your words
    your heart
    your sagacity.

    i have discovered
    a well of abundance
    that flourishes
    in direct proportion to the amount
    it nourishes.

    i have discovered that
    the shortest distance
    between two points
    isn’t really the shortest
    and it’s seldom
    the most intriguing or memorable.

    i have discovered that
    the desert can be a
    beautiful place,
    a place where there’s a rich life happening
    just underneath the surface.

  4. This post as well as the comments are resonating, bouncing around in my mind, and I know I can’t make a comment until they settle down and come to rest. So I’ll just say thank you. For this amazing piece of writing and sharing.

  5. Julie, this brought me to tears…I am sorry for your loss and understand the beauty in grief. The grief reflects the depth of the loss and if we walk through it…the depth of the grieving process can awaken us (although we never invite it). It was the grief process after a traumatic death that opened my sleeping eyes and enabled me to see the beauty in all of life. Over time, I have explored this new found aliveness and awareness via writing and now fisheggs. Funny, I went to look back at some of the writings after I read your piece…some titles are: Dust blooms, Pandora’s nesting dolls, In the desert…all exploring beauty in what we may not normally see beauty in…to be in love with all of life or at least lean into it…of course, I do slip back to sleep every once in a while but when I wake up it isn’t the earth shattering awakening it once was.
    Asleep in beauty’s lair is an evolved writing piece full of aliveness…no doubt, lit from within…IMHO

  6. In the beauty’s lair I discovered that I am damn strong. And that is something to be proud of.
    And I learned that my soul feels others pain. Deeply.
    And I was reminded that my Grandma was right, everything REALLY does happen for a reason. As if I ever doubted her wisdom.
    And I learned that there IS always, always, always beauty in pain. You just need to open your heart to it – “it” being the pain and the beauty.
    Thank you Julie.

  7. Grief and loss have been my greatest teachers. I grieve for this undergrieved society, which hasn’t learned the magnitude of your words here:

    “The heart knows the wisdom of grief, the intelligence of the process of moving through it all, the joy that is waiting on the other side, the broken-open heartedness that is waiting if one is willing to keep inviting it in.”

    Somehow the world surrounding us has bought into the belief that soul grief, that allowing the power of grief to overtake us is wrong or scary or bad, when it is in its fullest expression, by inviting it into as and allowing it to consume us… we come to understand… like the Rumi poem:

    “Last year, I gazed at the fire.
    This year I’m burnt kabob.”

    In beauty’s lair, I have discovered the people who “get” this are my people and part of my job here is to come alongside and walk alongside people who are willing to experience passion in all its forms without labeling it “good” passion or “bad” passion… those who leap whole souledly into the paradoxes where creation lives… (which reminds me how much I adore this line: “The only dream worth having is the dream that is no dream.”)

    Oodles of thanks today and each day, dear Julie…

  8. @PicsieChick – “I, too, discovered that beauty’s lair was within me. For me it took my camera lens, and a similar (although arguably less devastating) loss.” Thank you for sharing this with me and with other readers. I’ve discovered, the land of grief is not filled with comparisons…loss is loss. I love that your camera was your guide and companion. What beauty that lens can bring to light!

    @Holly – I am so touched by what you shared with us about your brother’s death and your witnessing of it. Much to take in at a tender age. When I take-in your paintings, I can feel the depth of soul in them. What a friend and companion painting can be. Thank you for sharing the RIlke line…it sears.

    @Jeanne – “i have discovered
    a well of abundance
    that flourishes
    in direct proportion to the amount
    it nourishes.”
    You, dear, nourish so many…I can see what a rich gift beauty’s lair has shown you. I look forward to knowing more of what your rich desert has going on…
    love you.

    @Susan – thank you for visiting, and for leaving exactly what was happening for you as you read the piece. I am honored by your presence and your words of encouragement.

    @Sheila – I’m sorry for your devastating loss, and I hear that you moved into, and through the doorway into awakening. What a gift fish eggs is to us. I’d love to read your writings. Thank you, dear, for your beautiful words.

    @Rebecca – what beautiful things you’ve discovered in beauty’s lair…that you are damn strong, that Grandma was right, that there is always beauty in pain…and that your soul feels others’ pain. Wow. I could feel the strength come through your words…one strong beautiful woman. Thank you for sharing your strength here with us. Blessings.

    @Julie – such discoveries for you in beauty’s lair! how lucky these people are to have you walking alongside them as they experience this passion, leaping ‘whole-souledly’ into the fire of paradox. I know I am damn lucky to know you. Blessings, dear.

  9. This was powerful, moving, and let me just say, though you put it in much better terms than I had ever thought of, this was exactly what was behind my decision to call myself Mrs. Mediocrity. That, what you just wrote, is what I mean when I say that.
    We are all here, tiny little insignificant specks, together. And when we hold hands, embrace each other, join together, stars are born.
    What a bright shining star you are…

  10. Ahhhh, Julie, the wisdom pouring from your beautiful, broken-open heart. I, too, have shared that long desert crossing brought about by great loss and deep grief. And there in the desert, heard the whispers (and sometimes shouts) of Sophia, began to remember her presence and a long-forgotten self.

    Remembering is the other half of that initiation-journey, gathering the fierce courage to look with unflinching eyes and still keep my eyes and heart open wide. Sometimes what I’ve seen, what I see tempts me to close both. But our broken-open hearts won’t be closed, will they?

    Beauty’s Lair…what we find when we come home to our broken-open hearts.

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful wisdom.


  11. “The illusion of separation is what allows us to turn away, to get used to the unspeakable happenings of our time, to believe we are more significant than another being, or even the earth itself.”

    I’ve been re-listening to The Power of Intention this past couple of weeks, and Wayne Dyer talks about that very thing. It resonates with me so well, and I know my resonance with this is what drew me here today.

    FEELING the pain, not numbing it, EXPERIENCING the pain, not indulging in it…this is the profound thing I’m reflecting on via my father’s death.

    In a very real way, Julie…I feel you. Thank you for this, my friend.

  12. Oh perfect Julie, as always I am deeply moved by what you write, and re-minded again of the simplicity truly.
    I love this:
    ‘The Seeker is the Sought’..I’m not sure who said it..

    I love what you say about experience it..not wallow in it, or dramatise it, or deny it like we are mostly conditioned to do..

    Thank you, thank you..

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