Appreciating Life

The art of appre­ci­at­ing life is sel­dom prac­ticed. I sus­pect this is so because appre­ci­a­tion actu­al­ly con­tra­dicts our belief about how much is ‘wrong’ with life.

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I decid­ed to pub­lish this the day before the elec­tions in the good ole US of A. (Slight sar­casm there…) 

Either 4 more years of the “vul­gar talk­ing yam,” or 4 years of “Grand­pa.” The world sim­ply shakes its col­lec­tive head.

But… a mod­icum of civil­i­ty and reflec­tion is called for here. So, forth­with, a word about Appre­ci­at­ing Life.


Appre­ci­a­tion exists in the here and now. It is an approach to the ‘is-ness’ of life. It only hap­pens when I sus­pend judge­ment so as to be present with what ‘is.’ In a sense, appre­ci­a­tion is a med­i­ta­tion and a reflection—a way of telling ones life-sto­ry with gratitude.

Appreciating Life
There’s a lot to be thank­ful for!

1) Appreciating life itself

Here and now is where each of us lives and has our being. 

In case you haven’t noticed, there is no alter­na­tive. You can stand there and hold your breath until you are blue, demand­ing a bet­ter deal, anoth­er real­i­ty. And noth­ing will change. 

Many do not want to accept this.

It shouldn’t be like this!” they wail. Well, take a moment to think.

How ‘it’ is and how you are, right now, in this sec­ond,
is how ‘it’ is and how you are, “fair­ness” or “right­ness” notwithstanding. 

How could it be any other way?

So, you ask, what has this to do with appre­ci­a­tion?

Well, I have no oth­er life to live than the one I am liv­ing. I have two choices.

I can bitch, moan and com­plain, and be mis­er­able, or I can express
appre­ci­a­tion for every­thing that has brought me to now, and choose where I want to go from here.

Appreciation, it seems to me, is the better choice.

The word appre­ci­ate comes from the Latin appre­cia­tus, which means val­ued, appraised.

Appraisal is not judge­ment. Appraisal is about (e)valuation—giving val­ue to. Assign­ing a val­ue is intense­ly per­son­al. I choose how and what I value.

When it comes to life, I con­tin­ue to ask the obvi­ous: what hap­pens when, instead of valu­ing, I judge? Answer: I make myself mis­er­able, and yet am stuck in exact­ly the same life.

To appreciate is to add value to.

Land and build­ings, in a bull mar­ket, appre­ci­ate, or go up in val­ue. It is the same with appre­ci­at­ing life, myself, and oth­ers. Find­ing val­ue in life, self, and oth­ers actu­al­ly makes every­thing more valu­able, more worthwhile.

The things I appre­ci­ate, appre­ci­ate.
Inter­est­ing, eh?

Some will argue that being appre­cia­tive is the same as being in denial. “How can you appre­ci­ate life when there is so much suf­fer­ing in the world?” As if bemoan­ing life ever improved anything. 

And God for­bid you get too cocky… Good lit­tle Puri­tans, after all, always focus on denial, sup­pres­sion, and ‘pie in the sky, by and by.’

Appreciation changes your focus.

In order to move through life ele­gant­ly, one has to get into the habit of see­ing through the burn­ing desire to judge and awfulize, and to stop think­ing that how things are now is how things will always be (uni­ver­sal­iz­ing.)

With a bit of wis­dom, you will see that what has gone before is just stuff, and it has no real mean­ing (oth­er than the mean­ing you give to it.)

Appreciation is all about seeing the value in being alive and having experiences. 

From this sim­ple shift in per­spec­tive comes a pro­found respect for the strug­gles of oth­ers, and a peace and con­tent­ment as you work your way through the highs and lows of your own life,
Here are a few things worth appreciating.

  • being alive
  • hav­ing a body, a mind, a spirit
  • liv­ing where and when you live
  • hav­ing free­dom of choice when it comes to inter­pre­ta­tion
  • cre­ativ­i­ty
  • aes­thet­ics
  • the whole catastrophe
  • Bud­dha nature
  • grace
  • rela­tion­ships
  • inti­ma­cy, sen­su­al­i­ty, sexuality
  • pas­sion
  • pur­pose
  • the joy of learning
  • med­i­ta­tion

And on and on, ad fini­tum. The dis­ci­pline of appre­ci­a­tion is a way to bring such things clear­ly to mind.

I’ve men­tioned my mood­i­ness in past arti­cles, and while per­haps sap­py, often my cho­sen way out is appre­ci­a­tion in gen­er­al, and appre­ci­a­tion for Dar­bel­la in particular. 

What’s odd about it is the path I took to get to her— from Buf­fa­lo to Chica­go and through two pri­or mar­riages, and final­ly, there she was. From this I learned sev­er­al things:

Every bit of the years of expe­ri­ence that came before my meet­ing her shaped and formed me into who I was that day, in a sense mak­ing me ready for her.

Learn­ing what I have learned, and walk­ing with the peo­ple I have walked with, includ­ing all of the “dra­mas” I have expe­ri­ences (and then let go of) is the basis who I am today.

I couldn’t write this with­out every expe­ri­ence I have had.
I appre­ci­ate and share all of this with the peo­ple I care about.

Expres­sion
Spend some time, appre­ci­at­ing. List off the sit­u­a­tions and dra­mas that have shaped and formed you. List off the parts of your­self you show to the world and the parts you hide. Own all of it, with grat­i­tude, as ‘all of it’ is all there is of you.

Be ver­bal and reg­u­lar in your appre­ci­a­tion of your life sit­u­a­tion, learn­ings, and skill set. Again, all of it.


This Endless Moment

Note: If you want to learn more about this top­ic, and want to look at it from a West­ern per­spec­tive, have a look at my book, This End­less Moment.


Appreciating life with mom and dad
Mom, and dad, and me, back in the 90s

2) appreciating those who have surrounded you

There is some­thing free­ing and cleans­ing about respect­ing and appre­ci­at­ing grand­par­ents, and par­ents, rel­a­tives, teach­ers, friends, those who love me, and those who dis­like me. 

Interestingly, this is done for me, not for them!

One com­mon denom­i­na­tor in life is we all had a mom and dad. Some of them sim­ply and plain­ly were in over their heads, and sucked at par­ent­ing. Oth­ers excelled. Again, it does not matter.

What­ev­er hap­pened to you while grow­ing up is sim­ply what hap­pened to you. You are more than free to make it as trag­ic as you choose, (and in some cas­es, what hap­pened was crim­i­nal, and awful) but in the end,
here you are, and that’s what hap­pened, and noth­ing can change one iota of it.

You are who you are because of each expe­ri­ence, and more impor­tant­ly, your inter­pre­ta­tion of each experience. 

Judg­ing an expe­ri­ence to be ter­ri­ble, and blam­ing it for every­thing that con­tin­ues to hap­pen to you is sense­less, and use­less, as, again, noth­ing changes.

The key to living an enlightened life is simple acceptance.

This is not about mak­ing ‘bad’ things ‘good’. It’s about let­ting go of the neg­a­tiv­i­ty and blam­ing that comes from hold­ing on to the judgement. 

The best way to do this is to change my sto­ry (my focus and atten­tion) from ‘vic­tim’ to ‘appre­cia­tive.’ (Thank­ful to have come through and to be the per­son I am.)

West­ern soci­ety has drift­ed far down the path of blame and vic­tim­iza­tion, and I encour­age you to walk briskly in the oth­er direction.

One way of doing this is through endlessly appreciating life.

Until and unless you grasp this idea, and make it your own, your poten­tial is severe­ly limited.

End­less appre­ci­a­tion is nev­er about sanc­tion­ing the past or ignor­ing the things of life that need chang­ing. It is a present moment exer­cise in self-location. 

As I end­less­ly rec­og­nize that where I am is where I am, and that who I am is who I am, I can free my heart, mind, and spir­it to act out of grat­i­tude and com­pas­sion, in this moment.

If you feel the urge to ques­tion what I’ve writ­ten, (“Yeah, but what about this? What about that? Look at what hap­pened to me!”) then take some time to real­ly get into it. 

Get mad at all of the slights, assaults, vic­tim­iza­tions, and dra­mas of your life. Flood your­self with them, make your­self as sad, and stuck, angry and piti­ful as you can.

Then ask your­self, “Why am I argu­ing and attempt­ing to cling to this as my self-def­i­n­i­tion? And even if the whole world agrees with me, how does improve my sit­u­a­tion or my view of my self, right now?”

Review the significant people in your life

—and thank them, in your mind and heart, for being part of the ener­gy that has giv­en birth to who you are right now. Visu­al­ize each of them, and bless them, and then, let them go. 

See your­self as the cul­mi­na­tion of their lives, no mat­ter how well or poor­ly they did as they relat­ed to you. Again, let them go.

Embrace your free­dom, in this moment, to choose to be any way you wish to be. While who you are in this moment is total­ly about your pri­or thoughts, expe­ri­ences, and inter­pre­ta­tions, you are free, in any moment, to do life differently.

Maybe now is the time to let all of the dra­ma go (and keep let­ting it go, each time you feel the urge to trot it out…) and to embrace the bliss of being alive, in this moment, where, if you look around, noth­ing much is happening.

Then, take the time to express your appreciation—for your life, for your expe­ri­ences, and for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make one ele­gant choice.

The next choice. Right now. By appre­ci­at­ing life.


About the Author: Wayne C. Allen is known on the web as the Sim­ple Zen Guy. Wayne was a Pri­vate Prac­tice Coun­sel­lor in Ontario until June of 2013. Wayne is the author of five books, the lat­est being The. Best. Rela­tion­ship. Ever.

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