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.
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.
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
- the whole catastrophe
- Buddha nature
- intimacy, sensuality, sexuality
- the joy of learning
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.
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.
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.