Part 1 Appreciation
I am so fortunate in that I get to work with and help so many different people from all walks of life. I listen to them a lot, and I’ve learned over the years that so many of us want the same things in life: to be understood, to belong, to be appreciated and loved, and to have purpose. So we build our lives and as we go, we often hope that these things will just appear as destinations that we will be able to inhabit forever. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems more true that if we want these things to come from others and from our lives, we have to begin by cultivating them ourselves.
So how can we do this?
Here are 3 inner habits that I, and many others I have met and learned from, have learned to cultivate in our lives in order for them to feel and be how we want them to.
The first is Appreciation
We hear a lot about being thankful for what we have and there are many practices that you can do: writing gratitude lists, saying prayers of thanks, writing thank you cards and taking moments to sit and feel grateful.
And I feel that appreciation can go much deeper than that. True appreciation involves trying every day to understand that we are alive, right now, often in good health, in this incredible experience that we call life.
There are different specific numbers around but many now agree that the odds of us being born at all in the first place are one in trillions. That is truly remarkable. So take a minute today to consider that when you woke up, you might not have done.
Cultivating appreciation for your life can develop in levels
The first involves being appreciative when things go your way or you get something that you want in life: a specific result, event, feeling, situation. And it’s a good thing to appreciate these things and the good moments.
The next level is when you take the time to regularly consider all of the good things in your life: family, friends, health, your home, your favorite things etc. This is good, as it is a bit more proactive; making this a habit through a practice such as writing a daily gratitude list has become very popular.
The next deeper level is when you are willing to try and be grateful for all things in your life-both bad and good. The ill health that make you appreciate your usual good health. The death in the family that shocked you and makes you grateful for the family that you do have. The failures, pains and frustrations that can lead to character growth and development. This is a lot more difficult to do, and it can be easy to lose sight of our ability to do this, and retreat back to level 2, when we just want our favorite things, and nice experiences with good people, and when we do not get these, we are no longer appreciative.
Then there is another, much deeper level of appreciation, where we are able to hold and trust that no matters what happens, we will be appreciative; for we knew that there are meanings, purposes and connections beyond what we can understand and piece together. At this point we know death is coming, so we appreciate life. We know pain is unavoidable, so we endure it patiently, knowing it will end. We experience disappointments, break ups and set backs, and yet our appreciation remains a source of strength for us throughout. We appreciate absolutely all that we have and all that we are, for we now know that we cannot hope to understand the true meaning or purpose of everything, and that’s ok. Instead, we are grateful for whatever comes: for all leads to growth, experience, and all is an equally valid part of life. Acceptance with no judgement is a part of our appreciation at this level. We no longer just expect life to give us nice experiences, there is much more deeper activity going on under the surface than that.
So where are you currently in your appreciation?
If you are anything like most of us, you will move between levels, often daily. And that’s fine. But know this. If you’re willing to self reflect, endure and appreciate regularly, your understanding and experience of life can transform dramatically- as your perceptions deepen and you begin to take off the glasses and see things for what they really are- which will lead to both wonder and empathy.
In the second part of this series we will look at how cultivating wonder can bring real joy into your life.
Love and best wishes,