Appreciating Life

Learn to appreciate the freedom and opportunities that we all have for working on ourselves to improve the quality of our lives.

Explanation

Often, we feel sorry for ourselves because of some small problem, like the restaurant ran out of what we wanted to order, or we can’t get a reservation for a plane or train at the time or date we want, or we catch a cold and can’t go swimming when we want. But when we objectively look at our lives, we realize we are unbelievably fortunate. We’re free of the worse situations that would really hamper our ability to do anything constructive or worthwhile. Plus, we have so many opportunities, especially to learn about the spiritual teachings such as Buddhism to improve our situations in life.  

If we’re caught in a disaster zone, like Nepal after the 2015 earthquake, or in a famine region, or a war zone, or where spiritual practice was against the law and unavailable, or locked up with violent criminals in jail, or having to fight in the army in a war zone, how could we learn the Buddhist teachings and methods and put them into practice? Or what if we were severely physically, mentally or emotionally handicapped, it might be possible, but it would be especially difficult? Or we were so rich, we never had to work and our whole lives were filled with parties and entertainment, so we weren’t interested in spiritual matters? Or we were completely closed-minded and antagonistic toward spiritual practice? 

Also, we have so many opportunities now. There are translations of the teachings, they’re available in books and on the Internet, patrons have supported their publication there, there are teachers, there are centers where we can learn and people supporting them, and we have the intelligence and interest to learn. 

The fact that we are free of these worse situations and our lives are enriched with these opportunities makes our lives unique. We need to rejoice in our precious life and take full advantage of it.

Meditation

  • Calm down by focusing on the breath.
  • Imagine that you were trekking in the mountains of Nepal at the time of the earthquake, and you’re stuck there with no way to get out and no food or water. 
  • Then imagine that you’re airlifted out and back home. 
  • Feel how wonderful you would feel being free from that horrible situation. 
  • Rejoice in that freedom.
  • Imagine being in Syria and Islamic State has conquered your city and you have no way to get out.
  • Then imagine being freed from that.
  • Rejoice.
  • Imagine being locked in a jail cell with a bunch of rough prison gang members who are violent and threatening you day and night.
  • Then imagine being freed from prison.
  • Rejoice.
  • Imagine starving in a famine and drought in Sudan.
  • Then imagine a food drop and you have enough food to eat and water to drink.
  • Rejoice.
  • Imagine having Alzheimer’s disease and you can’t remember anything or anyone and can’t even speak three words that are connected. 
  • Then imagine being cured. 
  • Rejoice.
  • Then progressively feel freed of these burdens on your back – stuck in Nepal in the earthquake, caught in Syria under ISIS, locked in a jail cell with violent gang members, starving in a famine in Sudan, having Alzheimer’s.   
  • Feel the incredible freedom you have.
  • Then think of all the incredible opportunities you have: There are translations of the teachings, they’re available in books and on the Internet, patrons have supported their publication there, there are teachers, there are centers where we can learn and people supporting them, we have the intelligence and interest to learn.
  • At the end, remind yourself of all the freedoms and enriching factors you have, and how unique this is compared to most people and most times in history. 
  • Rejoice and decide definitely to take advantage of this unique life you have and not waste it. 

Summary

When we think about our present situations and how fortunate we are to be, at least for the moment, free of the direst situations in life that would afford us no leisure to work on our emotional and spiritual development, we develop a deep appreciation for what we have. Although no one’s life is perfect and neither is any situation, but nevertheless, compared to how much more awful it could be, we are really very fortunate. With this appreciation, we develop the confidence necessary for taking the steps to take advantage of the opportunities we have to make our lives even better.

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