The Magical Act Of Appreciation
By Nici Burger
Krishnamurti said, “We are the world, the world is us.”
I want to talk about the possibility of healing ourselves and our families (and thereby our world) through the discipline of giving and receiving appreciation.
We can appreciate each other, in one conversation at a time.
What is appreciation?
Appreciation is the pleasure and joy that I feel when I notice and understand that something is good.
Appreciation is when I feel grateful for something that I value – whether it is a quality in me (and we should do more of this), another person, an object, an event or the universe.
When I appreciate a good piece of art I notice the beautiful, noble and fine qualities of the piece. It is also about how that piece makes me feel.
Appreciation as an act
Appreciation is a feeling that can be translated into an act. I can express what I value.
So, I can notice a positive quality of a person that I am interacting with and sincerely express my appreciation to them.
For example, I might say to a friend; “I notice in you the quality of wisdom. I appreciate your wisdom; it has guided me, thank you.” Or, “I notice the quality of kindness; this quality uplifts and nourishes me, thank you”.
Or to the earth, “I appreciate earth for holding me, feeding me and allowing me to breathe, thank you”.
These are all expressions of appreciation.
My experience is that the act of giving and receiving appreciation magically brings the tangible presence of love: that in turn, brings feelings of joy and healing.
How often do we have a thought or feeling of appreciation about the people in our family, at work and in our community, and our earth?
How often do we express those thoughts and feelings to the person or to the earth? Not often enough!
The chemistry of appreciation
Appreciation is one of the ten components of Nancy Kline’s Thinking EnvironmentTM.
She teaches that the interactions between people should contain mutual appreciation and that we should express our appreciation five times more than our criticism.
She bases her ratio on research that shows that our body chemistry is affected by appreciation.
Appreciative thoughts and feelings improve blood flow to our heart and the cortex of our brain. (1).
Your gift to the world
We should also appreciate a specific quality of a person and not only what they do for us. One night, I started saying to my older son, Ben, “Thank you for helping your brother with his reading,” when I stopped myself and said instead, “I appreciate your kindness and patience in helping your brother with his reading.”
I want Ben to go through life knowing and believing he is patient and kind.
When I first started doing this, I noticed that I was starved of being appreciated openly and sincerely.
It was also very difficult to respond when someone appreciated me with a simple, “Thank you”.
I know this is true for other people as well because when I express my appreciation of a special quality to people I experience some interesting reactions.
People blush, look away, get embarrassed, tearful, and even become brusque.
Very few people accept appreciation easily and gracefully.
Almost nobody gives appreciation, as a moment by moment practice: a gift to the people in your life.
Gratitude as a key to success
Teachers through the ages from all philosophies tell us that the key to success is to be grateful; and to consciously express that gratitude.
If gratitude is an attitude, then I can choose to feel gratitude. No one can control my attitude, only I can control it.
Deciding to practise gratitude can be embraced as a discipline that will bring joy and happiness into our lives; as often as we like.
Appreciation as meditation
Tom Kenyon speaks about a conscious act of service to heal the world through the meditation of appreciation. I recently took part in a world wide hour long meditation, led by Tom, which uses appreciation as the focus.
So, instead of focusing on the breath or saying a mantra, one beams appreciation of earth and being human (giving appreciation) to a point, an arms length, above your head.
On feeling your response of joy (receiving appreciation), you draw that joy down an imaginary line from the point above your head to the base of your spine.
You then beam up more appreciation, feel the response and draw it down, as many times as you want to.
This method of meditation is simple, and it can be a conscious gift of service to heal the world.
Try it now. Take a moment to think of something or someone that you are thankful and grateful for; some aspect or quality that you appreciate.
Say those words in your mind and hold the thoughts and feelings of appreciation for a few moments.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you… What do you notice about how you feel? Do you feel joy?
Simple, but not easy!
Life is glorious when you feel your joy.
We feel joy through the simple act of feeling our appreciation. Focusing on appreciation and feeling the joy is “the secret” to a successful and happy life.
When in a state of joy, a person cannot feel any fear based emotion, such as anxiety or envy – it is impossible to be anxious and joyful at the same time!
And the way to a joyful life is to constantly appreciate your life and everything in it.
To consciously feel and express our appreciation may be simple, but it is certainly not easy!
Thousands of people attend happiness conferences each year, and market research is conducted to find out which countries and sectors in the world are the happiest.
Happiness is the new black.
People are constantly searching for ways to feel their joy. For some reason, appreciation is difficult to sustain as a part of our daily lives and way of being in the world.
So, how can I hold onto my joy?
My choice, I take responsibility
Life can be a hard struggle, full of disappointment and difficulty. Obstacles to joy come to meet us all the time.
How can I be joyful all or most of the time?
The answer lies in the simple matter of free will and choice. I can choose to feel and express my feelings of appreciation.
I can take responsibility to practise this way of being as a discipline; until it becomes more and more natural to respond to life with gratitude and appreciation.
To practise the discipline of feeling and expressing appreciation requires inner work. I am required to let go of being the victim.
The voice in my mind that tells me that “I am not enough, they are not enough and I do not have enough” is so familiar that I don’t know who I am without it.
I need to have courage to say “STOP” to this voice. I also need courage to let go of being the victim and to say; “I have the choice to be grateful right now”.
When I feel gratitude I cannot focus on what is missing in my life. I can consciously choose to express gratitude and appreciation five times more than criticism in my inner world of thoughts and feelings.
I can choose to look into the eyes of the people, especially the children, in my world and express my appreciation of them, to them.
The presence of love, feelings of joy and healing will follow, naturally.
We can choose to bring healing to ourselves, our families and the world: through one magical act of appreciation at a time.
Footnotes: 1. Mindlab Publishing 2006, Kindred Spirit 2007
Nici Burger MA HDE BScHons DipTheology– coach/writer/author.
Email Nici Nici lives in 17 acres of the Koonyum Range Forest overlooking Byron Bay, the easternmost point of Australia. She writes and consults from home which she shares with her husband and their two sons.
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