By Suma Varughese June 2012 Only when we are planted in an appreciative environment, will our soul, psyche and body naturally grow to its full potential. Read on to find out how to develop an appreciative gaze that nurtures you and the world at large, says Suma Varughese Exercise appreciationOn our appreciation journey, the place to begin is with ourselves. We can only give what we have enough of and it is essential that we endorse the good within us. For the next 21 days, write down 10 things that you like about yourself each day. It could be the fact that you helped someone, or that you looked good in some outfit, or that you made a tasty dish, or achieved something at work, or received a precious compliment that made you feel really good about yourself. Share it with someone you love and trust, and see how much more appreciative you will feel about yourself. On the Internet, one Beth Allen quotes a suggestion by personal development expert Michael Allen to start a Sunshine File. Fill the file with feelgood messages you may have received, some notes to yourself you may have written, some old letters that make you feel good, and keep it close to where you habitually sit. Pull it out and pump yourself when you feel in need of appreciation. In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the centre of the village, alone and unfettered. All work ceases, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around the accused individual.Then each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the centre of the circle has done in his lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and at length. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days.At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration takes place, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe. The power of appreciation. Too little has been made of this great, life-giving and transformative quality. Very often, as in the case above, it can make the difference between a happy, productive person and a social drop-out. Appreciation is soil for the soul. Only when we are planted in an appreciative environment, will our soul, psyche and body naturally grow to its full potential. If we have been deprived of it in our formative years, we lead dwarfed lives, unsure, self-deprecatory, and maybe even deviant, for it is this vital elixir that safeguards our goodness. The magic elixir Sampoorna Garine, an evolved and popular psychologist and workshop facilitator based in Chennai, relates her own experience, “When I was a child I believed I was a dullard, a nobody, getting by with the generosity and kindness of those who loved me. When I changed schools, the secretary of the new school showed appreciation in different ways. She praised my use of words and she acknowledged specific abilities I displayed. I found myself transforming from a zombie to a joyous, bright kid full of life, fun and mischief.”Growing up, I had no faith in myself and no faith in my abilities. I drifted through life convinced that I was a hopeless failure. It was not until I had become editor of a lifestyle magazine that I found myself in an appreciative environment. My publisher had the unique gift of withholding comment when an issue was not up to par, and for appreciating me and the issue lavishly when it met with his approval. Under his appreciative gaze, I flowered out and came into my own, as did several others who worked for him. My publisher believed in his people. He respected them. And somehow this combination of faith, trust, respect and appreciation converted diffident, self-doubtful people like me into poised and successful performers.Sunny side up Irma Battig But what is appreciation? Appreciation is the capacity to see the good in oneself, others and in life. The tragedy is that human nature is designed to be aware of the negative, not the positive. When we are well, we do not notice our well-being. But were we to fall ill, we would be acutely aware of our dis-ease. Recently, I developed a frozen shoulder, which was acutely painful, to be followed a week later by an arthritic attack on my little finger which was even more painful. How oblivious I had been of my painless state until it left me! Today, I thank Existence and my ayurvedic doctor for bringing me back to normalcy, and fervently rejoice in my painfree state. But who knows. Perhaps if I continue to have the grace to remain painfree, I might take that state for granted.We take happiness for granted. The love of our families for granted. The goodness of our loved ones for granted. We take our own goodness for granted and flay our weaknesses mercilessly. What we do for us, we do for others too. Most of us have grown up in families where appreciation was withheld because it would ‘spoil’ us. “Appreciation is one of the highest vibrational emotions on the scale that we can experience. The higher our vibration, the healthier we are on every level.”– Irma Battig Instead, criticism was employed under the mistaken notion that the more our weaknesses were brought to our notice the more we would improve. It seems self-evident, does it not? Only that is not the way it works. The more we are criticised, the less we grow. Under the constant onslaught of attacks, we become stubborn and defensive. Our capacity for growth shuts down and we become focussed on surviving rather than on thriving. Generally speaking, it would appear that everyone’s default setting is of criticizing and finding fault. Indeed, one would go as far as to say that this is the way society itself operates. Take the example of the media. If law-abiding people get on with their lives, the media has nothing to say; but let it get a whiff of a law-offender and it lavishes them with attention. Murderers, rapists, confidence tricksters and terrorists will get all the publicity in the world, but unless a saint wins the Nobel Prize for Peace, he or she is unlikely to get press! Separation from source Why are we so perverse? Many thinkers and therapists would point to our separation from Source as the root cause. Our resultant fears and insecurity have created a scarcity-and fear-driven mentality that stops us from seeing the good and causes us to focus on flaws and negativities. In our lives, most of us squander our energy pining for what is not there instead of appreciating what is.In his book, The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield explains that because we are separated from Source we get energy from each other by playing manipulative games such as intimidating or interrogating others, or by remaining aloof or by making others feel guilty. In all this covert siphoning of energy, where is the space for appreciation?But as singer Bob Dylan would say, the times, they are a-changing. We are now heading towards a spiritual culture. In Redfield’s terminology, we are recognising that we can plug into Source for all our energy requirements and do not have to get it from each other. The spiritual culture tells us that we create our own reality and the more we focus on the negative, the more we perpetuate it. Books like The Secret have made millions for its authors by urging us to look at what we want and not at what we don’t want in order to manifest our dreams. Marita Nazareth The next step, therefore, is to create an appreciative culture in which we constantly endorse, validate and acknowledge what is good in ourselves, others, and life itself because that is the only way to draw it out! The spiritual culture tells us that we are already whole, perfect and complete. The more validation we get of this, therefore, the more established we will be in our original and innate wholeness. Parents must recognize that if they want their children to be paragons of virtue they need to acknowledge and validate any sign they see of the required virtues. Teachers and bosses must recognise that the student or employee is already everything they want them to be. Their job is only to validate and appreciate this wholeness. Indeed, what prompted this story was the poignant confession by a relation of mine on her deathbed, that she had been starved of appreciation all her life. ‘As I came off the stage, convinced that I had made an utter fool of myself, a young girl shouted out, ‘Awesome’. That one word made all the difference.’-Marita Nazareth She shared that her authoritarian mother had terrorised her as a child. And that her own husband had always withheld his respect and acknowledgement of all that she had done for the family. Now, in her final days, her heart overflowed with sorrow. I was deeply moved by her plight and it led me to recognise with redoubled vigour the vital importance of appreciating the important people in our lives. The power of appreciation Says Sukhvinder Sircar, a Kolkata-based writer and trainer, “Appreciation is the natural way of being, when one lives from one’s wholeness and honours everyone else’s. Appreciation happens when another’s differences and similarities delight us. Appreciation is a very important ingredient for wellness, as it deeply affirms another. I see it as a nurturing and honouring energy, adding to the self-worth of both the receiver and giver. It is balming and soothing, and enters the deep, unappreciated and atrophied parts of the person’s being, making them lush and whole.” Adds Sampoorna Garine, “Appreciation is as important for the heart or the emotional centre as food is for the body. It op
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