“Be thankful for what you have, you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~Oprah Winfrey. Occasionally, I experience moments of what I can only describe as “pure bliss.” It's like a cool wave of peace washes over me, cleansing me momentarily of my worries, stress, and issues. Last week, I had such an experience. You may be curious, what was happening for me to experience such a state? The truth may come as a surprise.
Because my outer reality was, well, rather underwhelming. I was walking home carrying the weekly shopping, having visited the supermarket. Not quite the setting for ”pure bliss” one may imagine. Perhaps you imagined me sat crossed legged, draped in silk robes, deep in meditation atop a mountain. Or, perhaps, gazing up at the glistening galaxy on a clear night.
Nope, just a chump walking home with the shopping.
As the late spring sun shone down on me, I smiled and said aloud, ”Man, I'm lucky.” Although externally, all was hum-ho and there was nothing out of the ordinary, internally, thoughts were flowing, like serene streams, forming a deep sea of appreciation in my mind. I appreciated the lush green forest I could see in the distance.
We spend so much of our time focusing on what is lacking in our lives. We focus on being, doing, and having more in our lives. When we focus on more, we become blind to all we are already. All we can do. All we have in our lives, right now.
Like the proverbial donkey chasing a carrot on a stick, our focus on what is out of reach blinds us from all else surrounding us.
What if, in many ways, we've already won the lottery of life?
And what if the path to bliss was appreciating the carrots we already have rather than chasing more?
I admit it can be challenging to appreciate the little things when you’re dealing with trauma, tragedy, or hardship. But I suspect that most of us lose sight of these gifts simply because we’re focusing on everything we want but don’t have.
To deepen the appreciation I felt recently, I've researched each of the things I celebrated on this day. I hope by sharing my experience, I may help others to see that they, too, may have already won the lottery of life.
1. I appreciate my senses.
My apartment backs on to some forest and, although I see it every day, on the walk home this day its beauty captivated me. The different shades of the green trees and the forest's sheer size as it towers over the houses in the village—wow, it was spectacular.
I realize now how often I take my eyesight for granted. According to a 2010 data collection, it's estimated that 39 million people worldwide are blind and 246 million have low vision.
We have five traditional senses—sound, sight, touch, smell, and taste—but did you know we have fifteen other senses? These include a sense of balance, sense of temperature, and a sense of time. And they’re all worth appreciating.
2. I appreciate my body.
A wise friend of mine once told me ”If you want to feel more appreciative instantly, change your ‘I have to’ statements to ‘I get to’.” The first time I made this subtle change, it was profound.
Late last year, I was feeling grumpy about having to walk across town to meet with a client. Remembering my friend's advice, I changed the story in my head from ”Ergh, I have to walk across town” to ”I get to walk across town.”
The sudden appreciation I felt for my legs made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. Since then, I no longer complain about having to walk places. It's a gift to have a functioning body, a gift many people sadly don't have.
3. I appreciate that I have food to eat.
Nearly half of the world's population—more than three billion people—live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty—less than $1.25 a day.
I didn't mind carrying the heavy shopping bags home. I'll be honest, there are times when I've complained. What a first world problem! I realized what a luxury it is to have a supermarket in walking distance where food is so readily available, and to have the money to purchase it.
4. I appreciate having a place to live.
The last time a global survey was attempted, by the United Nations in 2005, an estimated 100 million people were homeless worldwide. As many as 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing (Habitat, 2015).
When I read this statistic, my mind was blown. Imagining one million people is difficult enough, let alone 100 million. Many of us dream of a bigger house. The reality is, to many, the place we live in currently would be considered a palace.
5. I appreciate being alive.
As I returned home from shopping on this day, I felt an appreciation for life itself. Scientists estimate the probability of any of us being born at about one in 400 trillion. Think about that number for a moment. Let it sink in. For you to be here, right now, reading this, a ridiculous number of elements had to line up perfectly. That your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents met at the exact time they did is just the tip of the iceberg.
The fact is, you are here right now. Your eyes have enabled you to read this. Meanwhile, your autonomic nervous system has been regulating your bodily functions, including your breathing and heartbeat, all without your conscious thought.
There’s no limit to what we can appreciate if we’re paying attention. These are just a few of the things I celebrated recently. I appreciate having the opportunity to share them.