A new year is upon us! It is a time when many people will take the time reviewing the past year before setting some new goals and intentions for 2014. What are you choosing this year? Are you picking something completely new or is it something you are familiar with? I think we all have some items on the agenda that miraculously reappear year after year. Even though it may no longer be on the main list, the thought still comes to mind…
Well, this year I invite you to do something different!
Instead of adding something new to the list, look at what has been working and notice how you can bring more of it into your life. At the same time, become aware of what has not been working and see how you can reduce the frequency of that appearing in your life. Stopping something “cold turkey” or adding a whole new routine easily meets with a whole bunch of resistance. Adding to or taking away from an existing pattern is much easier as the flow has already been established and you can modify the direction of it.
This year there is definitely something I want to pay more attention to in my life! Over the past year I have been teaching Art of Feminine Presence classes. One aspect we spend a lot of time on is appreciation. While in our classes we focus on women, this whole idea of appreciation applies just as much to men and children.
In the past few years our culture has been talking a lot about gratitude, and many people have developed a practice around this concept. Gratitude to me means that I have become aware of something wonderful in my life, and I thank Spirit/God/nature or another person for this realization. Generally, gratitude is a state of thankfulness that I often do on my own, at the beginning or end of the day, or when I am driving in the car or walking in nature.
Often appreciation and gratitude are used indiscriminately in our everyday life.
However, in my classes, we use the word appreciation when we recognize and enjoy the good qualities of someone or something. This means, it is done as a result of an interaction or observation with another, not on our own.
It has been fascinating to observe in myself and others how difficult it can be to find the words to appreciate another person and that we all can use more practice! How come?
In my understanding, two main factors are responsible:
We have been raised in a society of competition and comparison. When we meet another person, we immediately and automatically start judging ourselves in relation to them. What do they have more of, less of, than we do? This can refer to looks, behaviors, qualities, perceived success etc. We use that information to find our place in that interaction from which we then choose our next set of actions and behaviors. When we feel that we are not measuring up to what we perceive in another person, when we feel ‘less than’, it becomes impossible to bring ourselves into a place where we are open to giving or receiving appreciation.
Life keeps us busy and distracted. It is getting worse! How often do you see people going out for dinner and paying more attention to their phone than to their partner? How often do we take the time to really be in contact with another person and place our full attention on them, even for 30 seconds or a full minute?
Appreciation fills our internal drive and desire for wanting to be seen and heard in this world. We are all longing for it, and we need a lot of it to thrive in life. And we need the real thing: appreciation that comes from the heart, not from a sense of obligation.
In order to be able to appreciate someone, you have to allow yourself a moment of being present with another person. Being present means being focused on the other person, allowing distracting thoughts to just pass through without holding on to them. In this state of being, there is an opportunity to connect from the heart and to be open to notice something good that the other person is offering in this moment.
Perhaps you become aware of the way this person smiles, moves or the sparkle in their eyes. Perhaps you notice the care they have taken with their clothing or hair or perhaps you can feel the qualities of strength, wisdom or kindness emanating from them. You become aware of something beautiful that you are drawn to by that person and it opens your heart.
When you notice this uplifting feeling in yourself, let the other person know that you did. Offer them appreciation for letting them see something that had a positive impact on you! It is a gift! While a smile is wonderful, a heartfelt appreciation is nourishment for the soul.
So, as I am inviting you to do things differently this year, there is a fun way of making a new connection in your brain and of bringing more appreciation into your life.
Every time you look at one of your apps on your phone or tablet, remember that “app” is short for “appreciation”. Pause, look around you and notice who and what you can appreciate in that moment. Observe, receive and give it voice from your heart!
Now, go ahead and install that new app in your life beginning in 2014!
And remember, when someone offers you an appreciation, let it in… right into your heart, where it can nourish and fill you!