Appreciating Against the Tide
By Joyce Shafer
Want to quiet ego-mind, feel peaceful? Enter a state of appreciation. Sounds easy, but does doing this feel more like swimming against the tide at times?
Years ago, after a conference my workplace held, the director said, “I don’t want to focus on what was right. I want to focus on what was wrong.” And this is exactly how so many of us live. We want to feel peaceful or have a quiet mind more often than we do, so that we can be more creative and productive, and enjoy a more fulfilling life. But everywhere we turn we find grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding. We find these while standing on line. We find these when we watch the news or certain programs—whether cited as “reality” shows or couched in storylines, even or especially in certain sitcoms. We even see this on our social sites. We usually call this kind of dialogue being real. We want and need to feel and be real, but we can choose a more productive way. We could make a significant difference in the human experience if we did.
Ernest Holmes wrote in The Science of Mind that “…TO VIEW LIMITATION IS TO IMPRESS IT UPON THE MIND, and accentuate the state of consciousness which produced it. It is not always easy to turn from fear, from poverty and pain, and from the hurt of human existence, to that which is perfect. But whoever can do this—and will train himself to do it—will be like the man healed of blindness. He had little comprehension of how it had been done; he could only say: ‘Whereas I was blind, now I see.’” Holmes is right. It isn’t necessarily easy to choose a state of appreciation more often than not, but it does create remarkable shifts in how we experience ourselves and life.
We thwart or impede our Good and our inner peace being at hand with grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding. It’s that Law of Attraction thing: What you focus on you get more of. This also works for appreciation. We know this, but we aren’t as practiced at putting it to good use. This is because we’ve been hoodwinked and addicted to believing that grumbling, complaining, and fault-finding is productive, natural, even expected. If these were productive, we and the planet would be in far better shape and having a far better experience. Some of the problems that exist now would be memories, and we’d be better problem-solvers or problem-preventers in many instances.
We notice that we feel discontent or miserable more than we believe we should, or definitely want to; and we feel this way not just when a real event or experience has triggered the feeling but even when nothing has. This is because this behavior of thinking and speaking in a certain way is what we usually do. If you plant turnips, you get turnips; if you plant roses, you get roses.
It takes true strength and fortitude to stand apart from such behavior, to do the opposite and choose appreciation deliberately and often, because it is like standing against a relentless tide of opposition. However, we can choose to stand closer to the shore, and know that we may have to stand alone, until like-minded others join us. A real shore feels solid, though it is billions of loose grains of sand. Even if the sand shifts a bit underfoot, we still feel we have a solid footing. We never feel this solidity when we grumble, complain, or find fault; but we do experience this when we feel genuine appreciation.
I shared one of those Facebook images with a quote on it that read, “The words you speak become the house you live in.” So much Truth in so few words; and includes what you say to yourself even more. We’re surprised at what’s in our “house,” yet we are the ones who move in or keep the “furnishings” we find there. If we don’t appreciate what’s there, we can decide to do something about it at the inner, outer, or both levels. If we do appreciate it, how often do we deliberately, genuinely feel it or state it? When we order “items” from the catalog of Grumbles, Complaints & Faults, we cannot be surprised to find them in our house, contributing to our inner and outer environments in the only way they can.
John Earle wrote in Waking Up: Learning What Your Life is Trying to Teach You, “Choice is the gift and the challenge.” Like muscle and bone, without challenge, there is no growth, no development, no strengthening. But the choice of appreciation, which strengthens us on all levels, can certainly be a challenge for us as well. Earle also used a term I quite like: Unskillful behavior. We really do feel unskilled at managing or coping with the tide of opposition we face and even with allowing a state of appreciation to be ours.
As much as we cherish individuality, we fear disapproval from the tribe. But that’s only part of the challenge. There are all sorts of “waves” coming at us every day, including waves from those who would be displeased or critical about our choosing a state of appreciation, no matter what appearances are (but you can do this silently). This is partially because they haven’t done their inner work, so don’t grasp the importance of this. Let’s not be judgmental about them, though, because it’s the same for us. This is partially because of the society-at-large addiction to this behavior, and partially due to an addiction to drama.
Stories assist us to identify with aspects of ourselves or ones we desire. But we can pay attention to which aspects are truly constructive and not destructive. We like our stories, our dramas. We relish them… often in novels or movies, but also as a way of life for many… because it is a genuine, brain-chemical addiction. We are all involved in the human drama, at one level or another, so judgment of ourselves and others isn’t productive; awareness of this is.
Are you clear about how to connect with that feeling of genuine appreciation? For me it isn’t about trying to convince my ego-mind to feel it, but to recall a time when I did. It doesn’t matter that it’s based on a memory; it’s the feeling that matters. You can call up more than one such memory, but one will do it. Just feel that feeling for as long as you can or choose to, before you have to get back to whatever you’re doing. The more I’ve practiced this, the easier it’s become to go into that feeling at will; and sometimes the feeling just happens, with no thought or effort on my part. When I do this or when it happens spontaneously, I calm down, ego-mind goes quiet, and I bask in a feeling that reminds me why it’s okay and right to trust the Universal Consciousness and my relationship with it. I remember that the Universe is always at work in my favor, no matter what appearances are at times. I never experience such feelings when I grumble, complain, or find fault.
I face the opposing tide, just as you do; and I’m getting better at reminding myself to deliberately and more often connect with my appreciation frequency. Just like you, I have my moments of not-desired feelings. I honor them, but they’ve never led me onto a better path. They may trigger me to choose a better path, but it’s the choice that puts my foot on the path. And it strengthens and encourages me if I call appreciation and trust into play.
Every emotion, thought, word, belief, and action is like a station you tune in to, and is why you feel the way you do in each moment. If you don’t like the station, adjust your frequency as appropriate for you. Appreciation is a station you want to tune your frequency to often, if you want to experience life in a particular way, that is.
I’m not talking about having a Pollyanna attitude or seeking only the good feelings and ignoring the rest. I’m saying it’s time we all pay attention to our state of consciousness and what it produces. A state of appreciation is not a head-in-the-sand approach. You can pay attention to what-is, you can take appropriate action, and you can also spend time in appreciation, because every experience holds a gift for anyone who trusts it’s there and looks for it. Nor am I saying all of us need to be the same. But each individual who strengthens him- or herself, contributes to strengthening humanity, just as each drop of rain into the ocean influences the entire ocean.
We’ve been blinded by our shared unskillful behaviors, but many of us desperately want to see. Mother Teresa said, “I alone can’t change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Aligning yourself with appreciation eases the blindness, brings light into darkness, and casts many supportive and enlivening ripples into your inner life, your outer life, and to others. Don’t be afraid to stand alone for a time in your state of appreciation. I’ll join you there. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
Joyce Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru” and other books/ebooks, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles and free downloads. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at State of Appreciation.