Appreciation & Gratitude

Elizabeth Reninger Written by Elizabeth Reninger
SeniorLiving.Org Expert on Taoism | Meditation | Compassion

Sometimes, to avoid escalating a conflict - and instead drop into tolerance - is as easy as a quick attitude adjustment: from judgment and blaming, to appreciation and gratitude. Can I find and flip the internal switch from fault-finding to acceptance? From criticism to compassion, or perhaps even celebration? Can it really be this easy?

Appreciation & Gratitude

Like me, every human being desires happiness. Like me, every human being wants to be free from suffering: from physical pain, mental confusion and emotional frustration. Like me, every human being wants the world to be a pleasant and harmonious place to live, for themselves and for their loved ones. If I can remember this, it becomes so much easier to forgive various unskillful actions -- misguided ways that people (including ourselves!) often go about attempting to achieve this universal, common goal of happiness.

Imagine that we’re holding a hammer in our right hand, using it to pound a nail, held by our left hand, into the wall, in order to hang a beautiful picture. Imagine, then, that we accidentally miss the nail, and instead pound the hammer into our left thumb -- ouch! What is our first impulse, in that moment? Does the left thumb say to the right hand: “What a horrible perpetrator you are! How could you have done such a thing?” Does the right hand say to the left thumb: “How stupid you were to get in the way of the hammer!”

No. Instead, our natural impulse is to drop the hammer and, in that moment, to use our right hand to gently embrace our left thumb, sending it love and healing energy. We don’t consider our right hand as our enemy, or our left thumb as a helpless victim, but rather understand that, together, the two of them were simply vehicles for an unskillful action. And we appreciate how immediate reconciliation, immediate peace, is possible -- and celebrate the body’s capacity to heal, deeply and completely. We understand, intimately, that our left thumb and our right hand are part of the same body, our precious human body.

Just so, each of us human beings is part of a single body -- called the Earth. And even this planet Earth is just part of an even larger body -- called the universe, or the cosmos. The poet Wendell Berry points to something similar when he writes: “any life has all lives for its delight.” How wonderful to think of it, and experience it, in this way.

So instead of fighting with one another ...let's dance!

Updated: Apr 13, 2011

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