"The Power of Thanks"
More About Appreciation
"The greatest of all gifts is the power to estimate things at their true worth."
-François de la Rochefoucauld
Appreciation versus Praise
As a child, I grew up hearing expressions like "good boy" or "nice job". These expressions of "approval" were often nice to hear and yet, always left me wondering. What was "nice" about that? It also left me a bit nervous. Does that mean I might not be "good" if I do something else?
These were the instructions I received on how to be a human. It was the "praise" I received from the "people in charge". From this "praise" I learned that certain behaviors earned me the label of "good". They also reminded me that I might lose that label if the "people in charge" decided my behavior wasn't "good".
I have come to realize that many of the expressions of "praise" that I have received were often designed to get me to "behave". Others were designed to let me know that someone appreciated my actions and was grateful for what I did.
The second category felt different. These expressions touched me in a way that felt connecting and clear. These are the ones I want to understand and be part of. They were not "praise"; they were "appreciation".
Living in Appreciation
Using the skills we have learned in this course so far, we can experience a deeper, more satisfying experience of appreciation. Also, as we discussed just a few weeks ago, through language, we can share that experience with others.
Inside myself, I can use the skills of feeling feelings and connecting them to my met needs, to notice the copious amounts of "metness" I am experiencing throughout my day. Right now, as I write these words, my brain is having thoughts, translating them into words, organizing them into sentences, helping my body type them into the message you are reading and helping me share this with you... Self-expression, mmmmmmm. All this while I am sitting in my office, which is clearly 30 degrees warmer than it is outside, while I'm fully clothed, while I'm fully rested, while my heart is pumping life through my body, while my lungs are bringing me fresh air, while the trees are helping make that fresh air, while this big blue ball of water, earth and life spins in space, while the sun gives us warmth and light... Comfort, security, care, well-being, peace of mind, communion... that's what I'm talkin' about! I can notice this. I can feel this; I can see that there are thousands of things happening that are contributing to the "metness" of my needs. I could go on... And I will (although I'll stop for now so I can get back to writing heheheh). Simply summarized, the practice of appreciation makes my life and the lives of those around me more wonderful.
Some years ago, my partner and I had developed a practice of taking a few moments each day to share our appreciation for how we contribute to each other. In the beginning, it was a bit uncomfortable for me. After some self-empathy, I realized it was because when I was growing up, appreciation had usually come with some sense of "approval" and "power over" and even engendered anxiety.
With some practice I learned to receive appreciation like "a shower", as opposed to "sustenance". Appreciation from others has become something that adds to my life, not something I depend on to feel OK about myself. This shift gives me a very different experience, one that is more choiceful and gratifying.
I have also noticed that instead of only thinking about the things that we did, or that we do, when we specifically think about the needs that we contribute to for one another through our actions, our experience is even deeper and more satisfying.
"A Moving Experience"
A number of years ago, when I was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I was in my favorite book store, a Barnes and Noble on Broadway.
I was lining up to get on the escalator, as is common in the city, and noticed a father and his three-year-old son approaching the moving staircase.
The father was weighed down with a full day's payload of purchased goods, a stroller and his son trailing close behind. As "Dad" got on the escalator, juggling his bounty, his son stood there frozen, struggling to find a way to step on and keep up with his rapidly descending dad. The little boy called out in a frightened, slightly quivering voice, "Dad?"
By the time his father noticed what was happening, he was hopelessly watching the space between them grow, from half way down the moving mass of metal stairs.
Seeing this, I stepped up and held my hand out to the soon-to-be panicking little person at the top of the stairs. I spoke. "Hold my hand." He reached up. "Ready? Here we go." We stepped onto the machine together. And down we went.
As the two of us reached the bottom and stepped onto solid ground, he looked up, straight into my eyes, let out the cutest little sigh of relief and said perhaps the most heartfelt little "thank you" I have ever heard.
It was so sincere and chock full of deep appreciation, I almost cried from the joy of this wonderful exchange. I feel warm right now recounting it. I could clearly see and feel what this meant to my little friend. His dad was pretty happy and relieved too. I owe it to my practice of compassion, that this seemingly "little" moment was so wonderful for me. Thanks to my ability to fully connect with this little guy's feelings and the "metness" of his needs in the moment... a moment I will appreciate forever.
More to come, as the Compassion Course continues...
Practice(s) for the Week
Practice #1 - Check In Again - As we did last time, write down a list of things that are happening and the needs that are being met in this very moment. For example, breathing/air, reading this/learning and growth, sitting in a building/security. This time, write down ten to twenty of them. How do you feel?
Practice #2 - Appreciate Yourself - Write down three ways you contribute to your own life, three things that you do or have done that you enjoy. Then write down the needs you meet for yourself. Then look in the mirror and say, "Thank you." Note: It is difficult to do this without smiling.
Practice #3 - Renewed Sharing an Appreciation - Think of something that someone said or did that contributed to your needs being met. Ask them if you could share something you appreciate with them. Then let them know what happened, how it felt and what need (or needs) it met.
For example: "I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your company at the movies last night... and for that matter all the times we've spent together... the friendship, the fun and companionship you bring into my life makes such a difference to me. Thank you, really."
You can do this in person, by phone, through an email or by writing a card.