What is appreciation, really?
I recently pondered on this and realised my understanding of appreciation was quite shallow – based on either material gain, pictures of success and/or pandering to please and keep others and myself happy. Examples of things I have ‘appreciated’ from this perspective include:
- How quickly I could type and complete a task for another
- How tasty and visually well presented a meal was
- How clean I kept the house
- The financial support or material goods I received from others
- How much money I had
- The visual appearance of myself or another.
While the points in the above list are not necessarily things to not appreciate, I have come to feel that appreciation based solely on the tasks and material outcomes can feel ‘void’ because:
- It can occur with no discernment of quality in which an act was received; for example, a meal may be well presented but prepared in resentment or anger.
- In some cases, I have used this superficial form of ‘appreciation’ to avoid feeling what is going on. For example, being in an unpleasant situation but saying to myself or thinking, “Hey, I should appreciate that. At least my situation is better than another’s somewhere in the world!” Or wanting to ask someone how they are because they do not seem themselves but instead only commenting on how nice they look!
This prominent focus on end results means that when things are not going so well, it feels like there is little to nothing to appreciate in life, which could not be further from the truth (please read on below). This can be disempowering as it does not support us to honour and celebrate ourselves and others for who we truly are, or life for what it is truly offering.
What I am now recognising is that the true beauty of appreciation is marked in the qualities in which life is expressed, and reflected to us, constantly. For example:
- The delicateness, tenderness and warmth I can feel in my hands
- The ability to sense my eyelids closing over my eyes
- The gentle rhythmic way a baby (and even I) can breathe
- The understanding I can bring to a situation without judgement
- The qualities in others that I have much to learn from.
Appreciation has also grown to embrace all niggles, tensions, conflicts, illness and un-ease that I may feel in life. Where in the past this was something to curse, or pass the buck to another through blame or anger (and sometimes I still fall for this), my awareness has now expanded to the beauty in feeling when things are not OK, and the opportunity it offers to honestly acknowledge the choices I make that contribute and the alternate choices I can make next.
The niggles and tensions also draw me out of any comfort or ‘burying my head in the sand’ behaviours that arise when there are things in life that I am not wanting to see or address. Particularly when I am unwilling to accept full responsibility for the way I live in the world and the power and potential of what I can contribute through true choices and movements.
For example, am I moving my body in a way that honours and appreciates the delicate and deeply sacred woman I am and the potential within me to reflect beauty and godliness to others? Or am I being hard and disrespectful in my movements, shutting myself down and out from others? Am I feeling myself at a cellular level, the connection I have with everything and the deep holding and support that is always there?
This is without demanding perfection, for my imperfections offer me the opportunity to feel, appreciate and connect to my qualities more deeply, surrender to support from others and let go of striving for the perfect picture of how life should look – all of which are tangibly felt, well before any doing or achieving has occurred.
Appreciation for me is now opening up to be a quality of movement that is deeply surrendered to the fact that everything is energy and that no trying, pandering or pleasing is required to truly appreciate.
By Susan Hayes, Ballarat, Australia