Start by appreciating

OK, so you’re not into the arts, and can’t imagine devoting time to practicing drawing or dancing or singing. But still, you worry about your lack of energy and enthusiasm; you wonder if this is all there is; your business is steady, maybe even growing, but you’re only vaguely interested in it anymore. You have trouble promoting your efforts with passion. You need something else, but what?

It’s dangerous times we live in. Oh indeed, we’re not fearful the Visigoths will slit our throats while we sleep; we have achieved a measure of peace compared with the daily threats of life in the Dark Ages. The danger lies in our heads these days. Have you ever wondered how it is that so many Middle Easterners are ready to die for their cause? Why do so many of us require anti-depressants to be healthy? We live in a time when 30,000 people can die in a day from a natural disaster, the news is instantly shared with the world, and we mourn for a day before shoving it aside along with all the other distractions that we need to keep from interfering with our one sacred duty: that of making money.

I perceive that death has become an attractive alternative to our pervasive unhappiness, rather than a disaster to be avoided at all costs. The danger of this state of mind cannot be underestimated. All our peace and productivity stem from an appreciation for life as a thing worth participating in. If you find yourself stalled, uninspired, wanting only to sleep or otherwise hide away, you’ve become infected with this ennui.

Directives to indulge your fascinations in order to avoid such apathy are useful only if you can identify one or two things that unquestionably turn you on. Having been there, I know it’s possible to be so sad that you can’t think of anything that can be qualified as a turn-on. In this instance, where you’re starting at rock bottom, the best thing to do is allow yourself to appreciate.

Notice this is not making yourself appreciate. It’s just quietly allowing, turning your attention to your bodily responses. That first swallow of coffee, the breeze on your cheek, the way the sun falls across your desk, your ability to use your legs and walk, the divine caress of the sheets as you lie down to sleep. Let yourself not only notice but spend a few moments mulling over whatever offers this chance for appreciation. Do nothing more than dedicate your attention to the tiny little ways the universe soothes and delights at every moment.

I love the newspaper stories about the latest woman celebrating her 101st birthday. Many times, when asked the inevitable question about advice for long life, the answer is that you’ll benefit from maintaining an attitude of gratitude. For most of us in these times of profound threat to our existence as a species, developing that attitude in the first place requires focus and committment. Decide to appreciate, and your opportunities to do so will multiply.

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