My family and I just returned from a long vacation. I find vacations to be interesting because I’ve experienced that before you leave you can’t wait to get away from home, but when you are on your way back you are looking forward to being home again. This time away was the longest my family and I had been away from home for any continuous period and we enjoyed it immensely, but the general consensus was that we were glad to be back home in our community with our family and friends once again.
But, what had changed? Our home was the same. The people and community we had left were there all the time, so that hadn’t changed. It is interesting that with enough time one grows weary of the excitement of adventures in places away from home, and eventually “home” becomes exciting and appreciated in a renewed way.
There are a couple of things at play here. One, I can see that we have an opportunity to examine exactly why vacationing sounds so appealing. Does one vacation to “get away” from the mundane and the humdrum — the routine and “boring” day-to-day of living? Sometimes we do! Two, the experience of leaving and returning provided a moment of clarity and introspection on the value of the virtue of appreciation.
When we experience learning moments which provide us with a new perspective, we have an opportunity to investigate internally what’s going on inside of us. Are we trying to get away? If so, why are we trying to do so? What do we expect to get when we leave? Are we seeking to satisfy an internal desire to fulfill something that we are looking for? If we are looking to escape, perhaps we can take a moment to ask ourselves why we need additional external stimulation to elevate or enhance our emotional disposition. Are we reliant on the external and the sensory experience to be heightened to elevate our threshold and provide us with enjoyment once again? And, as equally important — how long before that becomes stale and we need to seek yet another heightened sensory experience to enhance the way we feel once again?
I tend to believe that the reason for my vacation was to share memorable and enjoyable experiences with my family. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I was trying to “get away” from anything at home, yet the adventure and memories that lie ahead were exciting and invigorating. But, when we returned, everything was there as it had been when we had left. Nothing had changed or moved essentially, but it felt exciting and invigorating to be home. This was a clear demonstration in how our perspective shifts, which allows us to see the same thing we did before in a new way.
This was a clear reminder of the importance of presence grounded in appreciation. I appreciated having a home with comfortable beds. I appreciated my family and friends. I appreciated the grass in the lawn. I appreciated the many examples of abundance and blessings in life. These things were there all the time before we had left, yet what had dulled prior to departure was my ability to appreciate those things.
So here is our challenge — how can we rely less on our desire for external sensory pleasure and its eventual diminishment to provide us with the foundation of appreciation for the mundane and routine in life? How can we find deep appreciation each and every day for the things that are day to day and ordinary, so that we realize that they are not ordinary at all and that they are as exciting as we find them to be when we return from an extended absence?
This is a challenge for us, and it is rooted in presence and introspection. By simply being present and in the moment and focusing on our abundant blessings it doesn’t take us long to start recognizing an overwhelming number of things we can appreciate. We can start by appreciating our health, our family, our friends, our occupations, our homes, our relationships, and so on. Whether it’s sitting in a chair and taking in the chaos around us or finding a quiet contemplative area, or whether it’s putting down on paper a list of things for which we are appreciative, it doesn’t take long to realize how truly blessed we are each and every moment of every day of our lives.
So here is our opportunity for examination: How can we depend less on sensory gratification and its eventual decline to highlight our blessings and more on our presence rooted in appreciation? How can we cultivate a grateful disposition at all times?
In a world that depends so much on convincing us how much we need to satisfy our extrinsic desires in order to find enjoyment in it, this is a very significant challenge that we face every day. And we have an opportunity to look inward in those moments and remind ourselves that it isn’t about how exciting we can make our lives by the things we do and take in through the external senses. Rather, true joy and bliss come from examining our abundant blessings, and that is an internal process. We don’t find happiness without — it is there, all the time, within our hearts.