“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”~John F. Kennedy.
I am screeching to the end of a particularly hectic week, one in which multiple deadlines collided. Perhaps some of them could have been avoided with better time management, but my life has not left me with an awful lot of free time recently, so I am not going to beat myself up about that. And as always, even though it appeared that things would not get done, somehow they have. And if some of the details were less than perfect then I have to live with that. The expectations we put on ourselves, the added stress is mostly self-imposed. And recognizing that we are not superhuman, merely human, can sometimes lift that pressure.
But in the midst of it all I had to remind myself to pause, to reflect for a second and see how much I have to be grateful for. Often, even when we are busy planning for good things, for celebrations or big events, we get so engrossed in the annoying and frustrating details that we forget the pleasurable aspects. We drown in all of the nitpicky particulars of doing things right, and fail to appreciate the moments leading up to the big event, which are in their own way, part of the whole occasion. Anyone who has ever been pregnant recognizes that without the nine months necessary to fully grow the newborn baby, the outcome may be less than optimal. Yet we still try to rush those months, to wish them away without valuing the experience.
But this week I found another way to think of the word appreciate. I was faced with a group of students who have worked particularly hard this semester. And I realized that I had to appreciate the effort and time that they had put into the content of the course. Did I truly understand where they were coming from, and how much time they had dedicated to grasping some of the tough concepts of the course? And as I thought about the word appreciate, I realized that it is a large part of the concept of empathy, for unless I can imagine how you perceive the world, unless I can get a glimpse into the hurdles that you have to leap over on a daily basis, I cannot begin to value your life. As fellow travelers on this planet who are all rotating on the same globe around the same sun, if we can’t pause for a moment to see the plight of others, to appreciate the world from their perspective, then we will continue to harm each other.
I heard a message from Deepak Chopra the other day. It was advice for when you allow negative thoughts to enter your mind. He used the mnemonic STOP: Stop, Take three slow breaths, Observe your thoughts (and they are only thoughts that you created) and then Proceed with your day. The practice of any new behavior is always harder than it seems. It requires a commitment to change, and then conscious planning and follow through. And in the rush of daily living all of your good intentions can be swept up in the list of things to do. But even if the thought comes after a missed opportunity, sometimes that afterthought prepares you for the next one, and instead of responding to a situation in anger and fear, you can stop, breathe, observe and proceed with appreciation of the other person’s point of view.
Part of the meaning of appreciation is ‘to be fully conscious of’, and the origin comes from the Latin root meaning to value or appraise. I hope that on this Friday morning, by appreciating your own life’s experience you add value to it, and by appreciating the lives of others you can add value to theirs also. May you have a wonderful weekend Family! One Love! Namaste!