The Power of Appreciation

Yoga and Life

Appreciation is such a huge topic I hardly know where to start! I personally have so many things that I am full of appreciation for; things I get to look at and experience right now in my everyday life and things from my past and times long ago that still have an impact on my life as I live it today.

So often our holidays commemorate tragic times or events. But they also teach us to look for the silver lining in the darkness—it’s always there though sometimes we have to look a little deeper and give it time to reveal itself.

Have you ever noticed how the pleasure of experiencing the good things is only satisfying for a short period of time. Yes, it’s nice but it’s not long before we wonder what comes next? We can never stand still for long and remain satisfied. Evolution through growth and change is the real source of satisfaction and joy in life.

Not long ago my host brother, David Trood, from back when I was an exchange student in Australia for the second semester of my senior year of high school found me on Facebook (I appreciate Facebook!). The last time I saw him was 25 years ago when I’d gone back to Australia for his sister’s wedding. He is now a renowned photographer who lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and has just published a book, At Any Given Moment, chronicling his life as a photographer and his quest to find the source of his creativity. It starts when he was 13, only a couple years before I met him, and follows his path through working for the big Australian city newspapers and then on to backpacking through Indonesia, Thailand, Nepal, India, back to Australia, moving to Denmark in pursuit of the lover he’d met in Thailand and his subsequent career and family developments.

I have always been a huge fan of traveling. In traveling we allow ourselves to experience so much more of life. We may not know exactly what we are stepping into but the one thing that is for sure is that we will see and experience something new. We usually intend to experience something pleasing, but it could very well be something horrifying instead. It’s hard to appreciate the terrible things that happen as we are in the midst of them, but the bigger the contrast the more it will ultimately effect how we see and live our life moving forward. We get a very clear understanding of what we do not want to experience anymore and come away with greater clarity about what it is that we do want.

I was only in Australia for a short period of time, four months maybe, but the world I stepped into down there could not have been more opposite of my world back at home. I gained somewhere between 25 and 30 pounds, mostly in the first two months when I was living in the dorms at the all girls Church of England school I attended. Not only was the food unhealthful, but I was very depressed.

While I have wonderful memories of my time down under, there were some that were not so great and all of those took place at the school. The strongest memory I have from my time there was an intense feeling of depression that hit me like a wave the moment my foot hit the school grounds as I stepped off the bus after a few days away from the school on a field trip to Sydney. The time away had given me the space to experience the contrast of life there and life away from there and it was dramatic! That feeling was so powerful that I could not deny it and turned immediately to David’s sister Barbara (she’d lived with me and my family in San Diego only months earlier) to ask that her family please let me come live with them. She’d hesitated a moment and tried to explain that they were no longer living in a normal house but my desperation was evident. She checked with her father that night and the next day I moved into the woolshed with them where they were temporarily living while her father was building their new home. The woolshed is where they shear the sheep on the stations (ranches) in Australia. We were essentially camping out, something I was not very experienced with. Never-the-less, I knew the relief of being away from that school environment was crucial to my wellbeing, even if it was only for a portion of the day and night.

All of the positive memories came from my time with the Trood family and living their life that was out in the country and very much in touch with nature. His mother was the first to introduce me to astrology, the power of our visions and thoughts, the healing qualities of herbs and the benefits of tuning in to nature and our own inner being. In the big picture of my life, seeds were planted in those few months in Australia 28 years ago that took almost two decades to begin blossoming into the life I am now living.

Anyone or anything can be our teacher. Every experience we have opens a new perspective from which we can view life. We learn and grow from contrast. It’s worthwhile that we learn to appreciate the seemingly negative experiences as they will ultimately be the source of the new and improved version of the life we create for ourselves.

I am incredibly grateful that the Trood family was willing to take me in. They helped turn those few months in Australia from what could have been a negative experience into a very positive one. While I wouldn’t say that I am grateful for the time I spent at the school, I am very appreciative of the contrast it provided that helped me to have a clearer understanding of what is important in my life. All of this played a huge role in me becoming who I am today.

With every situation I encounter, I realize that I can choose to focus on the positive aspects or the negative aspects. I know now that whatever it is that I focus on will become more dominant in my experience. I do my best to focus on the positives and find reasons to appreciate the negatives. It’s not always easy and sometimes it takes longer than I’d like, but I know the benefit is there. Every time I take time to appreciate something I can feel my energy shift in a positive direction and ease come over me.

Everywhere I look in life I can find things to appreciate: the sunshine, the clouds, the rain, the beautiful spring flowers in blossom all around us, delicious, healthy food that is so easy to find here in Austin. I appreciate that I once again have a healthy and strong body thanks to Bikram Yoga–while I lost those 30 pounds in only few months before I headed off to college in the fall of 1982, it wasn’t until I started practicing Bikram Yoga in 2001 that I began to once again feel truly healthy and strong and a return to the sense of personal power that I’d first gone to Australia with.

I appreciate Bikram for being strong enough to change the way that yoga was traditionally taught as he developed his yoga class. I’d like to find more ways that I can thank Jason Winn and the other senior teachers of Bikram Yoga who shared their devotion and passion for the yoga with me and every other student and teacher they’ve touched. I appreciate my parents for their unconditional love and feel it all over again every time I see that from the other parents I come across.

No matter what I allow myself to appreciate, whether it’s a pen working well as I write, the smile or frown on someone else’s face, the piece of peppermint candy waiting in a bowl for me to have after class, I can always feel my heart opening and love flowing through me. It makes me smile inside and sometimes outwardly. I can’t help but want to share it with others.

Here’s an exercise you can try: the next time you are frustrated with something (maybe your teenager or job or car), look for the positive qualities and actually write them down, review this list and continue to add to it and notice the difference in how you feel when you focus on the positive attributes. Remember, your attention is the seat of your power. Whatever you focus your attention on, you give your power to and you will experience more of it. You get to choose what you focus your attention on.

The vibration of appreciation is as high as that of love. It is pure, positive energy and is contagious. You cannot stand next to someone who is full of appreciation and not feel some yourself. As you wake up each morning, take a few moments to appreciate something, anything, and allow that to set the energy for the rest of your day.

Enjoy the blessings of appreciation!