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.

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.


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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