“Appreciation practice is an investigation. Can we find anything, anywhere, in this moment, that is cause for appreciation? We look, listen, feel. Anything?” – Jan Chozen Bays, MD
Dear Napa Valley Insight Meditation Community,
Over the past two decades, scientists have developed a theory that during the course of human history our brains have developed a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we’ve evolved over millions of years, it was a lot more important for our species to notice, react to, and remember things that threatened our survival than it was to appreciate positive emotions and experiences. (Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Just One Thing)
Dr. Jan Chozen Bays, a pediatrician, meditation teacher, and the abbess of the Great Vow Zen Monastery in Oregon, writes, “Have you ever noticed how the mind focuses on what is wrong – wrong with us, with people around us, with our work, and the world? Our mind is like a lawyer reading the contract for My Life, always looking for flaws or contract violations.” A few weeks back, we explored an exercise from Dr. Chozen Bays book How to Train a Wild Elephant called “Just Three Breaths.” This week, I thought it might be of benefit for us to play with another exercise from that book, this one is entitled “Appreciation.”
Here’s what Chozen Bays suggests, that throughout our day we consciously stop what we’re doing and identify what we are able to appreciate in this moment. “It could be something about yourself,” she writes, “another person, your environment, or what your body is doing or sensing…Be curious, asking yourself, Is there anything I can appreciate right now?” As with “Just Three Breaths,” Chozen Bays suggests posting notes with the word “Appreciate” on it as a means of supporting this practice.
Emerging research is suggesting that through turning our attention toward positive emotions and experiences we are able to somewhat counter-act our mind’s negativity bias. One study by Sonja Lybomirsky at the University of California, Riverside demonstrated that 40 percent of happiness is determined by our intentional activities. To put this study and exercise to the test, back on July 29th I began a daily Appreciation Practice. Along with this moment-to-moment intention, I decided to add one other component – I started a daily Appreciation Journal in which I recorded at least five things that I encountered and/or experienced throughout my day that I had appreciation for. And from my personal experience, this has been an intriguing and heart opening process.
So on this coming Tuesday evening, August 25th, from 7:00 – 8:30, I invite us to spend an evening together sharing and exploring what there is to appreciate in this very moment; not forcing appreciation to surface, or rejecting emotions that are present, but simply, when the space is there, to open our senses and awareness to what is available in our lives right now. As Nina Wise recently wrote, “A certain measure of rigorous focus on the bounty of our lives moment-to-moment-to-moment can be a vital factor not only in our own well being but in our capacity to assist others in theirs.”
Take care, thank you for your practice, and I look forward to seeing you soon~
Napa Valley Insight Meditation
On-Going NVIM Events & Information:
Guest Teacher Shahara Godfrey, Tuesday, Sept 8th: NVIM will host a talk by Buddhist teacher, humanitarian, artist and meditation instructor Shahara Godfrey. Trained in the Theravada Buddhist tradition for over 20 years, Dr. Godfrey has also been influenced by spiritual teachers from various cultures and traditions as well as the creative arts. She is a graduate of Spirit Rock’s Community Dharma Leadership Program, the Path of Engagement Program and holds a PhD in humanities with a focus on transformative learning and change from the California Institute of Integral Studies. A self-taught mixed-media artist, she has exhibited in the Bay Area, Oregon, Washington, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Thursday Morning Silent Meditation: For those interested in supporting their daily practice, we invite you to join NVIM on Thursday mornings for silent meditation. This 30-minute meditation will begin promptly at 9:00am and is a wonderful opportunity to nurture your practice in an intimate and supportive setting. All are welcome.
On-Line Course, Essential Buddhist Teachings: This 10 week course, led by Spirit Rock teacher Mark Coleman, offers an in-depth understanding of core Buddhist teachings and meditation practices and is useful for newer students as well as more experienced meditators who want to refresh their knowledge. The course starts on 9/3 and the cost is $100.
For details go to: www.spiritrock.org/
On-Line Course, The Science of Happiness: Created by UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, this free 8 week course will offer practical, research-based supports for living a happier and more meaningful life. Themes such as empathy, mindfulness and gratitude will be covered. The course starts on 9/8.
For details go to: www.edx.org/course/science-
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