Character Building Workbook Series: Appreciation


Appreciation or gratitude is a sign of spiritual progress, and the joy it brings to our life make it worthy of nurturing. In order to begin to apply this character trait we must first become observant of life around us and aware of its subtle nature. Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami had the insight that observation is the first awakening of the soul and that becomes clear the more this teaching is internalized.

Where do we begin? How can one develop a sense of appreciation through observation? We need a new paradigm, or worldview, and we need a new road map. Take yourself out of the equation for just a few minutes. Just like we detached from emotion with the other character traits, we need to practice detachment from “me” and “mine” in order to see just how perfect everything is around us. Regardless of how successful or poor at something you are, the sun still came up today. Even though you handled something stressful last week, all of nature continued on its own—trees battled wind and stood their ground, red ant colonies continued their ongoing wars with black ant colonies, the entire universe expanded at a rate that our minds cannot even begin to conceive. While you were wrapped up in the microcosm of life, the galaxy, the earth, the sun and the moon all continued their marvelous—Siva’s dance. His majestic dance goes on, yet most people don’t give it a thought. But they can tell you if gas prices rose a little today.

Once we begin to let go of the idea that we alone exist, our behavior can encompass other people’s concerns—just as if they were our own. Our identity expands, our sensibilities become more refined. Living this way can certainly make us more vulnerable, but if we are stable in our sadhana and living dharmicly we will have the strength to face all that comes our way.

Becoming aware of our surroundings via affectionate detachment is a good start. Instead of complaining or worrying about the negative aspects of your current situation, of which there are going to be some, shift your perspective and be thankful for everything you have gotten from your karma in this life. This becomes an easy practice when you remember how badly others have it compared to you. Remember how just being ill makes you yearn to just be normal again? You are easily able to switch paradigms by being detached from good health and appreciation becomes quite easy. Without getting sick, detach from your situation and appreciate how things could be more difficult.

Gurudeva sums up this trait by saying, “Appreciation is a beautiful, soulful quality available to everyone in every circumstance—being thankful for life’s little treasures, grateful for the opportunity to begin the day where you are, appreciating the perfect place your karma and God’s grace have brought you to. Appreciation is life-giving. Loving appreciation is a life-changing force just waiting to be used. Express appreciation to community leaders, business associates, spiritual mentors, family members and friends as often as you can. Loving appreciation is a magic formula that works both ways. When we commend another, we are automatically uplifted.”

Practice:

For the week ahead, when outside the home be observant of the details of your surroundings. When you encounter something exceptional, focus on it and appreciate its uniqueness.

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