Saturday, 25 August 2012

Appreciation and Gratitude

Your smile touched ears, body developed goose bumps, heart paused to savour the moments and mind didn't care interpreting the true words. Or you were left somewhat embarrassed too. Every word was about you – just about you – soaking your being and energizing the soul.

Showers of genuine appreciation and gratitude! When did you last experience them?

When The Stream Dries Up
As we go about our day, our actions and behaviour impact the world around us. When the impact is not to the liking of others, it is always noticed. This is due to our strong affinity for dislikes. They spring to life instinctively at the slightest sign of uneasiness, inconvenience or unpleasant experiences and are often shown too. We don't get used to them. Remember how we are unable to get away with our mistakes, flaws or irritating-yet-harmless actions, be it at home or outside? When repeated, people quickly run out of patience and don't hesitate to give us a piece of their mind.

Now, on occasions when we do manage to showcase something good, stream of their words dries up. It produces a mere trickle - "Thank You". They quickly get used to it, start taking for granted and its recurring display generates no emotions.

The Occasional Speakers
Things are not that bad either. Others do indulge in wishing, congratulating and showering us with occasional droplets. On a personal level, we are 'entitled' to couple of special days in an year when we are pampered and made to feel special. These are our anniversaries - weddings or birthdays. In office, when we switch projects/jobs, 'farewell-speakers' grab that opportunity to explain how extra-ordinary we were, list our 'supermanic' abilities and how much we would be missed. Annual appraisal is another ritual.

Is that all? Think about it. Are we really NOT doing anything worthwhile throughout the year for persons around us?

Flipping the Coin
Flip the coin now. How about this-

When was the last time we showered someone with genuine appreciation or gratitude? Try recalling. Spend a moment about persons in our lives and what they mean to us. Think about their favours, gestures, executing daily chores for us and living up to our expectations. Or helping us in pursuit of our dreams, shouldering our load. Or inspiring and changing our lives. Or giving us memories we cherish even today. Or standing up for us in our absence. Or smiles, lighting up our mood, wink of eyes. Or giving us company and listening to our ramblings. Or simply being there. And many more.

Why do WE forget them? Why do WE wait for special days or even for them to leave us before we realize their worth?

Even our own indulgence in appreciation remains occasional. Our unawareness - "It never occurred to me" - is a big reason as we too take others for granted. Some of us actually feel embarrassed expressing gratitude (too formal) while others have "They know it" attitude. Sometimes, we may lack the courage as it would require acknowledging our own shortcomings. Worse is the case when we look for "What is in it for me?" and nourish "Mentality of Scarcity".

The Walk Beyond Regret
In many simple every day scenarios, we actually get to choose between an expression of regret-and-gratitude or just regret. Sadly, all of us choose to express mere regret and then stop just there. One such recurring scenario is-

What do we say on being late for an appointment? A "Sorry" or "I'm sorry for being late" or its numerous variants? They all express just our regret and miss something very basic. They do not appreciate the generosity of the person who waited for us. We never go on to add, "...and THANK YOU for waiting for me". How unfortunate that we feel lighter just by shedding our regret and fail to appreciate others' generosity.

Color the Lives
People rightly believe that their presence and actions make difference to our lives. When we express gratitude, it validates and reinforces that belief. It strengthens our bond, brings a sense of fulfillment, joy and freedom. By taking others for granted, we are being insensitive and unkind to them. The least we can do is express gratitude.

Let us not wait for an occasion to celebrate their presence. Rather create one to surprise them, embarrass them, overwhelm them and share their goodness stories with others. Color their lives. Make them feel special. Make them glow. Don’t just be farewell speakers.

People don't remember what you said. However, they do remember how you made them feel. Maya Angelou  

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Ability to 'Let Go'

Long ago, a mighty capable lion ruled a forest. He would leap hard, chase down animals and relish fresh kill. One day he fell into a trap and was bundled away. Tied to a post in zoo, he would still leap hard but couldn't move beyond tether end. It had curbed his free movement, restricted fresh kill and crushed the spirits. His unawareness of the tether and inability to cut it weakened him mentally and physically leading to his eventual decline. 

For us humans, the tether is our frequent indulgence in stressful thoughts relating to everyday experiences that sap our energy, time and peace. If we don't let them go, this recurring chatter creates a false sense of busyness, stagnation and stress. Stagnant thoughts turn us into an irritating giant suffocating us and others around.

Dawn to Dusk - The Flood
Flashing with incredible randomness and speed, flood of thoughts never abates.

Reality strikes with the sound of morning alarm. As we rub sleep out of eyes, mind starts scurrying through our universe leaving behind a slush of anticipation, reluctance, joy, anxiety or similar thoughts. Before we even kiss the warmth of our morning tea, storm has already started brewing in our cup. 

Day arrives and we again hop-on its roller coaster to ride through the same park, experiences and people creating even more thoughts. At dusk, consumed by resultant feelings, grudges, fears or worries that hold no value in the long run, we finally hop-off to sleep in the stillness of night. 

The Drought 
Like breathing, thoughts are natural too. The problem, however, is not their consistency but dearth of new ones. Most of them are stale yet continue to reappear. Unfortunately, positive thoughts don't follow this pattern. They honor our space and melt away fast. We don't replay them continuously as it needs a new listener every time. 

Stressful thoughts, however, have high repeat-value. They are the ones keeping us engaged most of the time. When left unchecked (often), mind rapidly amplifies them, dramatizes the context and delivers high-octane stressful performance. The listener? We rarely look out. Instead we unwittingly slip, get sucked and start identifying with their stories of victimization, worry or helplessness. Repeatedly!!

Falling into The Trap
Thoughts like "what if"(future), "should"(present) or "should have"(past), when overdone, consistently produce the result we already arrived at. 

We have expectations from everything - animate-inanimate, known-unknown, far-near, even from a newborn baby. When they don't live up to it, we can't accept it. First we build expectations by weaving future threads in present. And when future fades into past, we replay it, again in the present, as if it would produce a result to our liking. The irony here is our constant absence from the present. 

Unawareness of our impatience, fear, intolerance, excessive need to win, mistrust of others, jealousy, micro management, control and perfectionist attitude also fans thoughts that not only bog us down and create stress but also eat up our timeNo wonder then we don't seem to have any time for our passions or even to discover them. 

Wriggling Out
Our recurring slip is so subtle that we can't always avoid it. Instead, how quickly we become aware of it, let go and wriggle out is what matters. Steps to help in recovery or even prevent the slip may include:

1. Take a leap into the future. Will it matter in a month/year from now? If no then what is the fuss all about. 
2. Stop blaming others always. All of us are not born only to cause you trouble. Honestly scrutinize your role. 
3. Be mindful of your indulgence in 'victimization' or 'helplessness' stories with fellow 'victims'.
4. Avoid generalizing - "I or he ALWAYS behaves like that". That's rarely true.
5. Confront the situation if possible. It is a better option than being hammered by 'helplessness thoughts' later.
6. Choose your actions. "I choose to surf net than work on my task" is different from "I should be working on my task" (while still continuing to surf).
7. Fear of forgetting tasks/points causes periodic bouts of anxiety. Unload them from mind to your smart device. 
8. When in dilemma between personal or professional friendship, stick to one else you risk losing both.
9. Practice conscious kindness. It will provide you with more reasons to be happy with yourself.

We can build this awareness with practice, identifying our triggers and looking out for them. Watch and learn from others. In college, I was fortunate to meet and learn 'let go' from Sandeep, now my close friend. Another way is to 'designate' objects - like a ring, bangle or watch etc - that may remind us of our current thoughts. 

Expectations are good until they turn into baggage. Planning is good too, not over/under-planning. We must strike a balance and, on times, even not let go e.g. when our rights or principles are at stake. 

Before the Stillness Reigns
We are fortunate to be free. Our thoughts, however, tether us to our everyday experiences - the side posts on our journey. If we don't cut it in time, we can't progress despite our hard leaps. Our awareness and ability to 'Let Go' enables us keep moving. So, serve something new and good to your mind to chew on. 

Life, or whatever is left of it, is for us to choose. 'Letting go' simply creates that space and, more importantly, the time to indulge in it. Choose, before the lights dim. And stillness reigns, FOREVER!!

Life is the sum of all your choices. - Albert Camus

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