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The Appreciation Game

By Phyllis Stein, Ph.D.
December 31, 2006

Instead of noticing what is wrong with something, learn from this article how to notice what is really wonderful. It will change your whole experience as you move through your day.

Many of us are very good at identifying what was wrong in any situation. I learned it from a mother who desperately and unsuccessfully tried to have control over being disappointed by seeing the worst, so that it would not catch her by surprise. I am good at seeing what needs to be fixed and making it happen. This ability serves me well in my career as a scientist. Before I began to do Inner Bonding, I had a very limited capacity to enjoy myself, because I was so critical. As I have grown in Inner Bonding, I have let go of a lot of it. Certainly, I know that I am not defective in any way, and I take tremendous joy in all of the beauty and love around me. I enjoy life more than I ever did. Not everything we encounter, however, is immediately wonderful.

Recently, I saw something more subtle. When something isn't obviously wonderful and easy to appreciate, I realized that I have been latching on the energy that comes with seeing how wrong, broken, defective or ugly it is. I automatically connected energetically with the brokenness, the unmet need and brought that lower frequency to myself. It seemed perfectly normal to me. I think I got some sort of validation out of knowing "better." I remember riding the subway in New York and being thrilled by all of the renovated stations and feeling equally critical when we passed ones that were still falling apart. Now I realize that I have another completely different choice. There are multiple ways to experience everything, and these ways become stories that we tell our little ones, much like parents on a long drive point out the cows and the license plates as they drive by. I realized that I can change my experience to one of appreciation, of finding what is wonderful in almost anything. Here is an example. I went out to my car and as I opened the door I glanced down at the pavement. Normally, I might have noticed how cracked or uneven it was, or maybe not noticed at all. This time I thought about the many people that made the road and the pavement possible, and that strip of pavement became a marvel. I kept it up on the drive home, looking at everything, red lights, street sign, trees and sought what was wonderful to me about each thing that I noticed. I love my car and take pleasure in driving it, but this time I gave the layout of the dashboard a little extra appreciation and thought, again, about all the people that worked together to bring this car to me. I drove past a lot of trees and reminded myself that within each tree lives a tree spirit. I saw the side of an old warehouse and imagined how it would look in an artistic photograph.

My little girl loves this. It makes her feel happy and light. So, this is another level of being a loving adult. We are all aware of the importance of what we tell ourselves about who we are and who other people are. We are aware of how important what we tell ourselves about other people's actions is. We are all learning to not take situations and interactions personally. Now I realize that it is also about the story we are sharing with our little ones about the nature of the world around us, the sights, the sounds, the smells, and that we have a choice of telling them a story of marvel and wonder or one about how bad things are. So, I challenge you. Notice what you are noticing. Clearly there is way too much to notice everything around, so just notice whatever you happen to be experiencing. Then, if you don't find pleasure in it, ask yourself and ask you child too, to find the treasure. That game of finding the treasure is fun in its own right. And once you have found it, share the pleasure of what you both have discovered. Why would you want to miss the pleasure of interacting with your child, or with anyone else, in this way?


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