In this post, I would like to talk about how to appreciate the simple things in life. So all it takes to appreciate anything is to directly experience it. In other words, when we directly experience something through one of our five senses, appreciation often naturally arises on its own. But as we go through life, we generally don’t directly experience what we come across because of 2 reasons:
1) Our attention is almost constantly on thoughts about the past and future. Most of us can walk on a path every day and never notice the trees, the design of the houses, the texture of the path, the smell of the plants, or the sounds of the birds. The reason we rarely take notice of these sounds, sights, and smells in our daily lives is that our attention is almost continuously on our own thoughts about what happened in the past or what may happen in the future. And we can’t appreciate anything if aren’t giving it our full attention.
2) When we are seemingly giving attention to something (or someone), we are actually giving attention to our thoughts about it, and not to the thing itself. If we look at a tree, our attention is on our thoughts about whether the tree is big or small, what type of tree it is, and whether we like it or not. When we meet a person, we don’t just experience them, we experience our thoughts about whether they are attractive or unattractive, appropriate or inappropriate, smart or stupid. In this way, our attention is on our judgments, labels, and commentary about the tree or person, rather than on the tree or person themselves. Therefore, we experience our thoughts about what we see and hear, and not what we actually come across in life.
We rarely just experience what we witness purely through our senses. Many of us were taught to try to think positively about what we have in our life in order to experience appreciation for what we have. That’s fine. It can feel nice. But, it is not nearly as fulfilling as directly experiencing what we have. We can’t appreciate something simple with our minds. It is very difficult to appreciate something simple with our minds because when we come across something simple, our minds will think it is insignificant. By the word’s very nature, when we think something is “simple”, we are believing that it is not “important”, “spectacular”, “unusual” or “great”. And our minds only know how to appreciate something when we can form very positive thoughts about it. Without these positive thoughts about “the simple things”, we can’t appreciate them. By the same token, if we think something is “unimportant” and “normal”, our minds will generally not give it any attention at all. Our mind will naturally start to think about future events that we think are important.
The natural appreciation of the present moment when we directly experience something in our lives (person, event etc.), without our thoughts about the past, the future, or the thing itself…. all of a sudden, appreciation often naturally arises on its own. When our attention is taken off thoughts, we naturally notice and appreciate so many simple things in our daily life that we never experienced before. We can be completely captured by the smell of a flower, the beauty of a tree, the sound of a child’s laugh, the elegance of a landscape, the wonder of modern technology, the taste of a potato chip, or anything else. When our attention isn’t on thoughts, this appreciation arises naturally. Anything can just overtake us when we experience it fully. The ability to experience the awe of something simple arises in the moments when we have silence or space between our thoughts. It is like seeing something for the first time. This feeling is similar to the sense of wonder and innocent curiosity that young children have.