as promised (or some might think threatened) here is the results of my following Maitreyabandhu’s ‘five things I’ve appreciated today‘ in my J&TG notebook.
Surprisingly the highest number of things I wrote down were simple physical pleasures. This may be due to temperament, the habit of where I put my attention or the result of doing a lot of physical training recently. It included things like the exhilaration of feeling secure in a parallel bar shoulder stand or the relief as long term tension patterns in my body are released by deep stretching (Kit Laughlin’s methodology if you’re interested in this).
The next broad area was ideas and realisations. Insights, new ways of thinking or understandings gleaned from cultural appreciation. I’m spending a lot of my time alone studying so it isn’t surprising. It did makes me realise how important decent mental stimulation is.
Despite not seeing many people at the moment, the next category is people. Not people doing anything in particular but just for being themselves and being around. For example, Nigel’s company during the Parinirvana festival.
The next closely related category is seeing kindness. This may be kindness directed towards me or witnessed to others. The internal feeling seems similar to that experienced when looking at natural beauty, such as seeing light flickering on waves; however, maybe because it is more active and human, I feel it more intensely.
As the weather warms up I’m spending more time wandering the marshes and woods around where I live. I noted appreciating beautiful skies, gnarled trees and luxuriant foliage which often sets of reminders of more mythical aspects of life. It’s not just natural things though, human life especially seen from a distance, can look wonderful: such as the lights over the industrial area near where I live or the centre of London as I drive to the London Buddhist Centre on a Sunday night.
Another category I’d call mastery. It is just the satisfaction of doing something well. Cleaning the kitchen, getting all the shopping done or creating a new website. I experience this with music too, improvising a little tune or knocking up a composition using music software.
Of course everything doesn’t fit into neat categories. I really enjoyed Nancy’s peanut cookies but is that physical sensation (they taste good), kindness (she generously baked them for us) or the excitement of an idea (you can make biscuits with my favourite food).
Your lists may be quite different. The balance will likely be different: according to habits, lifestyle and temperament. I may have missed, through mindfulness or lack of appreciation, whole areas of experience – please let me know if you feel this is the case. Mostly I hope it has stimulated you to keep trying (or start trying) this simple exercise. If nothing else, you go to sleep with a better appreciation of life, and of course this outlook may well perfume your dreams!