Gratitude and Appreciation

Yesterday at the Vision Kauai meeting, the person who created the blue ribbon "Who I am makes a difference", was there. She had an excellent set of stories about appreciation. Gurudeva gave us two sadhanas, gratitude and appreciation. Gratitude is first then appreciation. When appreciating say something specific that you are thankful for so it's not a shallow compliment. Opportunities are coming up at Mother's Day, Father's Day and Grandparent's day to be grateful and express your appreciation.

Unedited Transcript:

Yesterday Palaniswami and I attended the Vision Kauai meeting. The Mayor was there and we had a special guest, Alise Ridges who created the 'Blue Ribbons', the creator of "Who I am makes a difference" blue ribbon, which is what we use in our appreciation verbalizations. She has lots of material, "Who I am makes a difference - A social vaccine uniting youth and community to make a difference." She told a lot of wonderful stories and I thought I would share one of them on appreciation.

She works a lot with schools. So in this story, the teacher simply acknowledged every student in the class. Went around one at a time, expressed how he appreciated them and the qualities in them that he appreciated. He was very careful to verbalize specific qualities for each student and make a difference. It was not just a generalization, "You are wonderful, you are smart" or something. But to really see the person and acknowledge that student for the different wonderful qualities that each one had. Part of it was a pay forward. This teacher gave each of them two ribbons and they had to go appreciate one more person and then give that person another ribbon to appreciate someone else.

It was very touching in terms of the microcosm, how it made everyone feel better about themselves and catalyzed some people to express how much they appreciate another person, like a son to a father, a father to a son that would not have happened otherwise.

She is busy on the West Side right now. The West Side Coalition Group of businesses, non-profits and schools has sponsored her coming to the Island and you will probably see some write-ups in 'The Garden Island' about their efforts. They are working on, I believe, it is the Kaikaha High School that needs a lot of help, getting everyone there appreciating each other.

So we did that and it made me recall our wonderful write-up from Gurudeva in 'Living with Siva'. You recall we have two sadhanas given to us, the first is the sadhana of gratitude. You are supposed to do that before you do your sadhana of appreciation.

"The sadhana of gratitude. The sadhana here is to take out paper and pen and list all the good that has come into your life during the past five years. This list will grow as memory is stimulated. Should it not be possible to think of even one good thing then write the affirmation several times, "I am a spiritual being of light maturing in the ocean of experience." Soon a good memory will come up followed by more. Feelings of loving appreciation will begin to flow toward those who participated in the good time. Forgiveness then wells up for the bad times."

That is our first sadhana there and it is a good one to do now and then. Of course, if we do it regularly we don't have to go back to five years. But definitely if we are feeling, shall we say a little down, not fully inspired. We are looking at the glass and it is half empty rather than half full. It is a good one to do because then we will remember all the wonderful events that have taken place in our life and all the people that have done wonderful things for us.

This leads to the sadhana of appreciation. The sadhana of appreciation is to approach those you are grateful to and tell them to their face while looking deep into their eyes how much you esteem and value them. Be specific.

So that is the key. You don't just want to say, "You are wonderful", but you want to say specific things about the person so they have a sense that you are really deeply feeling what you say, it is just not a surface compliment.

"Be specific. Find details to share so they know this is not a shallow compliment."

I should have just kept reading!

"Explain what each one has done to inspire this loving confrontation and convince each in turn that you are sincere. The look of a full smiling face, eyes shining and heart full of love, perhaps followed by a big hug is convincing enough in itself. Words of appreciation are words people do not often hear. These loving confrontations do not happen nearly often enough among friends and relatives in today's world. Loving appreciation is a magic formula that works both ways. When we commend another, we are automatically uplifted."

A story she told from 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'. Is that what it is called? One of the stories in the book is right here. It got published in this book, it was so moving. She told it and tears come to everyone in the group.

A young man working for a firm, his employer was rather gruff. So he got up his courage and decided to appreciate him one day. He appreciated him in his brilliance as an inventor, "You have so much to teach me in your brilliance as an inventor." Then he urged that man to pass on that appreciation to another person. So when he went home. He passed it on to his son. He told his son how much he loved him, that he was sorry that he didn't say it more often when he came home, he was preoccupied with work and all that. But he really loved his son and appreciated him and thought he was a fine person. So then the son opens the drawer, shows the father the gun and says he was going to shoot himself tomorrow, commit suicide. But because he was appreciated by his father, he changed his mind.

This is a true story. It shows the power of appreciation and it shows the opposite side of just not telling people we love them, expressing our feelings. We don't express our feelings enough.

But people need it. Particularly younger people need it or people who are seeing the glass as half empty and not totally in a positive state of mind, they need appreciation. It makes all the difference. So it is a real important part of relating to one another in the community.

(And) We have some opportunities coming up to do that, Mothers Day is coming up. You wonder why Gurudeva put Mothers Day, Fathers Day and Grandparents Day in our calendar. Even in Malaysia they are celebrating US Mothers Day because it is the natural opportunity to express appreciation. Sometimes it is hard to find the right time. This is a time that has been set aside. "Okay, it is Mothers Day. What do we do? Appreciate Mother!" It is very nice and certainly everyone in our congregation has that spirit even overseas. It is a great time to verbalize our appreciation and as Gurudeva says, be specific. Try and figure out very specific points because that makes someone really feel you thought about it and it has a heartfelt sincerity behind it. A month after that we have Fathers Day, the man's turn and a couple of months after that we have Grandparents Day.

There was one story I forgot to tell on appreciation, I just remembered it. Normally you think, "Well, appreciation is something all human beings need." But there is a story that goes beyond that. We have the office cat. Certain Kulams have office cats and others don't. That is their space, you know, no one else's. So the office cat for the Ekadanta Kulam, his nickname is Babu. Not everyday but quite often, he will come into the office around 4:30 or 5:00 in the morning, sit in a conspicuous place and start meowing. So Arumurugaswami was there one morning, "What is this cat doing?" (And) I said, "He just wants acknowledgement and appreciation." He does. So, you go over to him, acknowledge him and say a few kind words, how wonderful he is and how happy we are to have him as our office cat. He stops meowing and starts licking himself. He is very happy. But he wants you to acknowledge him. He has come in, this is his office, he is part of this situation. "Please acknowledge me and appreciate me." Well, it is a real story, it happens every other day or so.

Appreciation even extends beyond people. Even animals have a need for appreciation and acknowledgement.