Since beginning to blog every day this month, encouraged by this #reverb10 project, I’ve been on a writing tear — writing hundreds of words each day. If it’s your first time to visit, #reverb10 presents a prompt each day to get the creative juices flowing. Each prompt addresses an aspect of the overall theme, which is to look back and reflect on 2010, and to consciously create a dynamic 2011 for oneself as a result. Here is today’s prompt:
Prompt: Appreciate. What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Prompt contributed by author Victoria Klein.)
Oh boy. Here we go.
I appreciate the courage and vulnerability of the authors who have contributed prompts for #reverb10. Invariably I see a number of responses from bloggers who hate the prompt for the day, think it is insipid, “new-agey,” or just plain stupid. That’s gotta be tough. I’ve had quibbles or frustrations with some of the prompts, too, and this is one of them! However, I can take a deep breath, and appreciate it for what it is — simply a nudge to inspire or provoke the flow of ideas.
I recognize the value of asking for one thing, or otherwise limiting a conversation in hopes of focusing it. This I appreciate. Can you feel the “HOWEVER” coming? Here it is. I believe that the potential for appreciation is limitless. As the question is phrased, “THE ONE THING,” thoughts of scarcity are awakened in the subconscious mind and find their way, insidiously, into awareness. YES — start by finding one thing to appreciate. You’ll find yourself happily expanding your list!
The potential for appreciation is limitless. “Potential” is a word that is in the same family as “potent,” or “potentate” — from Latin “potentiam” which means “POWER.” Moshe Feldenkrais wrote a book entitled “The Potent Self,” which is about having the self-awareness to improve one’s ability to “get up and go” (literally, sexually, and any other metaphor you can apply) — to be powerful and self-actualized in your life. Appreciation and its sibling, Acknowledgment, along with Gratitude, are powerful attitudes to practice. Their practice is transformative. They are inexhaustible resources. A deeper and more interesting question might be, How can I tap into the limitless potential of gratitude and appreciation?
2010 was the year when I really “got” this. I’ve always tried to be a thankful person, a polite person, saying “Thank You” to beings corporeal and divine when they did something nice. But being appreciative is so much more than an expression of politeness, or not taking advantages for granted. In 2010, I began a daily practice, morning and evening, of taking a few moments to list the things I appreciated — was grateful for — that day. Sometimes, I wrote an actual list. Most of the time, however, it was a short and silent meditation of sorts. I found that the more I did it, the more I had to appreciate. Here’s something else interesting. When I practiced gratitude, I began to receive many more expressions of appreciation as well.
People will often say, “Yeah, but.” “My life is really shitty and hard right now.” They detail heartbreaking and stressful circumstances — job loss, illness, relationship or family troubles. I feel for them, because I have been where they are. I firmly believe that sometimes, you really have to look hard for something, anything to appreciate. And yet, corny as it sounds, the willingness to look for something to appreciate opens the door for more positive experiences to occur. A cool breeze, a kind word, a cup of coffee, a blade of grass can all start the engines of appreciation.
I can give you a lot of examples of times when I have failed to find something to appreciate in a situation. Here’s one: right now there is a small but exceedingly noisy construction project in progress right across our driveway, in the parking deck of a large commercial building. The beeping of the equipment, whatever demolition they are doing, and the rumbling as gigantic metal dumpsters scrape as they are dragged down the driveway, are a colossal pain in the ass. The noise begins at 7 a.m. and lasts all day. It is constant, nerve-wracking, and headache-inducing. I can throw myself into a migraine with an hour of fretting about this. Or, I can appreciate that people are working in this economy. I can appreciate that in my bathroom, in the shower, I can’t hear them. I can appreciate that I have an appointment in a little while and can leave. When I’ve been unable to shift my focus away from a difficult situation and toward appreciation, my life gets worse. Everyone else seems cranky and impatient. (Think there’s any projection going on here?) Clients inexplicably cancel. The cupboard is bare. The flow of income slows to a trickle. I’m not willing to say that gratitude is causal. I think it’s a bit more complex than to say “Oh I need rent money — let’s write a gratitude list!” although I know that some people have done exactly that and have produced a seeming miracle. It’s miraculous enough to me to notice a correlation, a synchronicity, between my felt state of gratitude and the world I experience. When I express my gratitude, life is better. Money flows. My clients are happy. My friendships deepen. Surprises abound — people, resources, ideas, previously unknown, suddenly present themselves.
Appreciation is not scarce, and you don’t have to save it up for a special occasion. Appreciation is meant to be spent, squandered even. You can go on a rampage of appreciation, and in 10 minutes change the outcome of your whole day. Appreciation and gratitude are engines, energy sources to “get things moving” and to create a flow. The more of it you express and acknowledge, the more of it you receive.
Here’s my short list of “gratitudes” for today —
My wonderful loving partner, my crazy cats, my magnificent adult children; that I live in a beautiful place, have clothes to wear, reliable transportation, fulfilling work, friends, activities, fun; good health, energy and vitality — the list can go on and on. I’m even grateful for the challenges and the bumps in the road, because they teach me something valuable to know in the present and into the future.
So, “THE ONE THING” I appreciate most this year? The question still feels a bit disingenuous to me. What would be ideal? EVERYTHING, EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, ALL THE TIME. I’m not expecting myself to practice this perfectly– and I’m grateful for that. However, I’m willing to aim for that ideal, and stick around to see what happens.