You know that giddy, spectacular high of falling in love? What about the excitement of meeting a new friend, a real kindred spirit? Or the incredibly deep, cellular-level sense of unconditional love felt for a baby we’ve just welcomed into the world?
Hold that feeling for a moment, then see how that compares to how you feel about your self.
We’re all familiar with the concept of “gratitude” as the quality or feeling of being thankful for something, someone, a particular circumstance, etc. The quality of “appreciation” takes the concept of thankfulness further and is broader yet also more specific. The word carries multiple connotations, from being a synonym for gratitude, to referring to a clear perception or recognition of the meaning and importance of something. Within this definition of appreciation are two essential concepts: clear perception, and meaning and importance.
Sometimes we don’t fully understand the meaning and importance of challenging situations, yet we can still appreciate that we are being given an opportunity to grow, that each situation opens new potentialities. As we more deeply appreciate our lives and all of the circumstances that conspire to make our world, we begin to find value in these challenges/opportunities more and more. We begin to feel a sense of unconditional love for ourselves and this precious life we’ve been given, no matter how difficult it may currently be.
GRATITUDE IS HEALTHY
Grateful people are happier, less depressed, less stressed, more satisfied with their lives and have a greater ability to cope when disaster strikes. In fact, grateful people may not jump to the conclusion of “disaster” but rather the gentler estimation of a challenge or bump in the road.
The Buddha said “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” This powerful insight into the nature of reality guides us toward working first with our perceptions of the situations that arise in our lives. If we tell ourselves things like “this is terrible; it’s the worst thing that could happen to me; my life is ruined etc.” we are establishing those feelings as our reality.
From there we can consciously cultivate a mindset of appreciation toward ourselves and the world as a whole. The internal dialogue might then sound something like “I accept the reality of my situation; I am very sad or afraid of what is happening but I trust that there is something I can learn here that will be of benefit to myself or others.”
When we live in a state of appreciation and love, our bodies naturally relax, stress dissipates and we can experience more energy, more vitality and greater health – especially in the midst of stressful or overwhelming situations.
TIME, SPACE and PATIENCE
It takes time to address our troubles holistically, and unlike symptom-masking and suppressing pharmaceuticals or other commonplace allopathic treatments that fall short of true healing, a holistic approach gets at the root causes of the issue. Whether you are suffering from low self-esteem, struggling with the transition into menopause, or treating a serious illness, wherever you can apply an attitude of appreciation, or even just allow yourself to know that opportunity exists, you are on the path to wholeness.
We must give ourselves permission to “start where we are” and use our healing as an opportunity to reawaken what has been lost, damaged or wounded, to (re)establish an unconditionally loving relationship with ourselves. Appreciation and self-acceptance are closely related and if we truly accept ourselves, our sense of suffering and struggle diminish considerably.
I’M IN – NOW WHAT?
Just like with a new lover or any type of intimate relationship, we must come to know who and how we are, just as we are at this point, in order to move toward health, vitality, and happiness. First, give yourself both time and space (physically and/or mentally) to get to know yourself. This means making YOU and your relationship with yourself a priority. Some getting-to-know-me activities include:
- Start journaling. Read through previous entries to get a sense of the ever-changing nature of who and how you are.
- Find a favorite mind-body practice like yoga or qi gong. These practices are all about creating unity and balance within your being and with consistent practice you will see how incremental change adds up to monumental transformation.
- Last month’s article, Treat Yourself with Loving Appreciation, provides several suggestions including a ritual bath and spending time in nature.
There are many wonderful teachings on appreciation, from the ancient yet timely wisdom of the Buddha to the insights and revelations of contemporary teacher Abraham-Hicks.
In Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living, Buddhist nun Pema Chodron writes:
“When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it’s bottomless, that it doesn’t have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. In the beginning it might feel like sadness or a shaky feeling, accompanied by a lot of fear, but your willingness to feel the fear, to make fear your companion, is growing. You’re willing to get to know yourself at this deep level. After awhile, this same feeling begins to turn into a longing to raze all the walls, a longing to be fully human and to live in your world without always having to shut down and close off when certain things come along.”
In this video Abraham-Hicks discusses the differences between gratitude and appreciation, and how love and appreciation are the same vibration. That living in a state of appreciation is being in alignment with who you really are; it is the absence of doubt, fear, resistance, and self-denial.
The takeaway from this teaching is to “Look for what is good, what makes you feel good. Look for things to love and appreciate and you will find alignment with who you truly are – who you have been from the moment you were born and who you will be the moment you die.”