Sea Change course – Designing a Well-Lived Life

Lesson 2: Living Mindfully With Appreciation for Life

[Sea Change graphic and theme song]

Hi guys, Leo here. And welcome to another lesson in our course “Designing a Well-Lived Life”.

Now, the last lesson we talked about connecting to meaning, connecting our daily actions to meaning. We did touch on, in that lesson, the idea of appreciating any moment, anything that we’re doing, doesn’t matter what the activity is, as meaningless as it may be. Maybe I’m just checking my messages, and that might seem meaningless. Maybe I’m taking out the trash, that might feel a little bit meaningless. Maybe I’m just picking up something quick to eat on the way home, and that might feel meaningless.

So in each of these things there might not seem like there’s a lot of meaning. But one thing that we can do in any of them, in any activity, is to be mindful and to find appreciation, mindful appreciation, of this moment, as it is, as it’s happening.

So as I sit here talking to you, I’m actually looking at a camera, I’m in my room. There’s sunlight coming into the room. It’s winter and so sunlight is a rare thing, but it’s really nice to sit here and be surrounded by the sunlight. I am in my bedroom with a roof over my head. There are loving family members outside of the room doing their daily activities. I can just appreciate this moment, filled with sunlight and family members nearby, and nature outside, me being alive and relatively healthy. And you, being there on the other side of the camera, listening to me and me being able to connect to you in this way.

This is an amazing moment. And it’s easy to just rush through it and miss it. It’s easy to go about our day as if we’re just rushing through a series of things that we just have to check off our checklist. But in that way it’s not actually a well-lived life, because we’re missing the beauty of every single moment.

Now I think it’s very, very hard – if not impossible – to appreciate every moment. But in each moment we do have an opportunity to just wake up out of our daydream, wake up out of whatever online thing that we are checking, or wake up out of whatever story we’re spinning in our heads, whatever fantasy narrative thing is going on, and just see this moment.

Do I hear right now – there are some beeping noises downstairs where my washer is going off. And that’s okay. I can just appreciate that and wake up to the fact that there is a noise downstairs, and it signals that I have clean laundry and that my wife is actually helping me with that laundry. And so isn’t this a beautiful thing, having those beeps. In every moment I can appreciate what is there in that moment. And maybe each time I can see something a little bit different, appreciate something that I didn’t appreciate before. Or maybe just remember to be grateful at the fact that I have eyesight, the fact that I have ears that can hear those beeps, the fact that I have a body that can sit here in this chair.

[Breathes deeply in, sighs breathing out with an “ah” sound.]

It’s nice to be able to remember these things. And so – it’s not about actually just being nice and having some kind of pleasantness. ‘Cause we can appreciate the discomfort of pushing into something really difficult. Maybe I can be mindful in the middle of that moment, instead of trying to get away from that discomfort, just appreciating that feeling. Just noticing what that’s like. And not needing to run from it.

And so what I’m talking about here is a component of a well-lived life. It’s not enough to be mindful every single moment. There’s more to life than just witnessing. But it is also not enough to never notice what’s going on, to never be awake, to never appreciate what’s going on in this moment.

Because we might be driven towards a purpose and constantly, constantly looking forward to that purpose and always striving to do better, but we’re not appreciating where we are, what’s going on right now and how amazing this is, without needing to achieve that purpose. They’re both great, but there is, I think, meaning in this moment. Meaning in appreciating and seeing and witnessing and loving what’s here in this moment. Even the unpleasant parts of it. Even the parts we normally don’t like. Seeing that and even being grateful for that.

And so that is what meditation is partly about, is just waking ourselves up from our daydreams and just being present. And that might seem trite to you, you know, seeing so many different quotes and tweets and magazine articles about being present. But actually it’s a profound thing, to wake up and just be aware, just be grateful, just appreciate what’s happening right now. Because it is passing, and it’ll be gone soon. It is profound to be witnessing that elusive, slippery thing called this moment. Even if we can only catch a part of it, a glimpse of this moment, isn’t it amazing to be able to witness that, to be able to see the greatness in it.

So I think this is a key component. How can we implement it?

Well, if you’ve already been practicing the meditation habit, I think then what it is is taking the same thing you’ve been practicing on the cushion or in your seat and getting up and trying to practice it more often during the day. And that might mean having little reminders around to just wake up and appreciate. It could be on your lock screen on your phone. It could be a reminder you send yourself once a day or twice a day. Could be little statuettes that you put around the house to say, “Hey, don’t forget to appreciate this moment”. It could be having a partner or a practice partner who is asking you, “How are you appreciating your life?” throughout the day.

If you’re not already meditating, that could be something that you take up in the next month or two, is the meditation habit. And there’s a whole course on that here in Sea Change. So can you start to just sit and practice, for even a few minutes a day, of waking up and being mindful? And then from that foundation you can carry it out as I’ve just mentioned.

So these are ways that we can mindful and be awake, but also we can also ask ourselves, “How can I be grateful? How can I appreciate what I’m noticing?” Even the discomfort, even the parts we don’t like, even the sour, bitter, nasty things. Even the people who we wouldn’t normally want to be near because they’re being frustrating, because they’re irritating, because they have the wrong political views, how can we appreciate them and see this as a gift? Even the parts we reject are a gift. Even our difficulties, even our struggles, even our grief, sorrow, and loss; even our pain, anger, and frustration. How is that a gift?

Asking ourselves this question on a regular basis is what it’s like to wake up, to appreciate, to be grateful, and to find joy in the smallest moments. And that is a part of a well-lived life as I see it.

I hope you’ll all consider it, and I’ll talk to you in the next lesson. Bye-bye.