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  • Writer's pictureStephen Hart


I spend so much of my time each day working on this, it was about time I wrote about it. In an otherwise challenging year, I have received so much love and goodness from friends, family, community, and nature that I can appreciate every day. I appreciate you taking the time to read and share this article!


“2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate? The WILDCATS (or whoever)!” When I think of the word “appreciation,” this silly chant we used to sing after soccer games as little kids comes to mind. It was pretty brainless at the time, we were forced to do it by our coaches before shaking the hands of the other team after each game. But looking back now, how great was that? As a little kid, to come to a field and compete, trying my hardest to beat the team that was trying their hardest to beat us. And when all is said and done, we appreciate our opponent, our adversary, and go home happy, win or lose.

And then, somewhere down the line, this appreciation for our adversaries in life dwindled. We began to expect things to go a certain way and to resist anyone or anything that diverted our path.

I’ve noticed, through the major swings of ups and downs in my life, we have this tendency to get comfortable with the “way things should be” based on a dream that is fed to us through media and our upbringing.

I grew up with the idea that I needed to get good grades in high school so that I could get into a good college, so that I could get a good job so that I could make lots of money, so that I could support a family, and live happily ever after. If I just did the things, it would all work out exactly how I planned.

Fortunately, that’s not how it all worked out. While the things that knocked me off that path were rather unpleasant, think if the WILDCATS were a pro team against my ragtag team of 2nd graders, I survived. And eventually, I thrived, and am so so so much better for it.

Nothing has been more intense than my experience with my fiancee Karina taking a brisk walk with cancer. Sitting in the hospital and being told your person is going to die is an adversary unlike anything I could have imagined. In the moment, I was beaten down. Everything I believed was tested. Everything I thought I was was burned away. I felt like I was drowning, and didn't know which way to swim for air.

And after her transition, the emotional ride was extraordinary, I grieved heavily. This period was so important, as I describe in Grief and Grieving, but the next phase of my healing process has been more focused on appreciation, what I’ve come to discover is one of the most healing practices of all.

Appreciation to me is gratitude in motion. Where gratitude feels like an internal peacefulness and contentment, appreciation is an abundance of love energy that swirls around and can be shared with others. Gratitude doesn’t feel strong enough to shine a light on such an intense darkness. But appreciation does, and there is so much to appreciate in life. Friends, family, nature, health, community, the sun, each breath we get to take, the blessings are infinite

Through the lens of appreciation, my recollection of the experience began to shift from the most horrible thing to have ever happened, to a poignant acceptance of the natural transition from life to death. Sitting here now, almost a year later, I am rewiring pain into peace through active appreciation of all of the good in my life.

It is daily work, and so effective because it reminds me of the bigger picture in all of this. I understand that we are here as creative extensions of universal energy, with the opportunity to experience contrast (hardship), for the purpose of continued growth and mastery of different soul-level lessons that we sign up for when we come.

By recognizing the contrast for what it is, and appreciating the opportunity to experience it, the sting diminishes greatly. By saying, “I appreciate every experience that I had with Karina, and all of the profound moments we shared through her transition, and all of the lessons I learned along the way, and my continued connection with her in different ways”, I feel so much more at ease with what happened. I feel ready to move forward on a higher vibrational path. I feel more ready to love again, knowing that if I survived and thrived through my greatest fear, nothing can stop me from living a happy and fulfilled life.

Nowadays, a daily appreciation practice is a non-negotiable for me. I actively appreciate things in my life, and that brings so much joy to each day. Even for the challenging things...especially for the challenging things.

My flight gets canceled: “I appreciate my flight being canceled so that I can have another experience here where I am, and for my life being saved because surely that plane was going to crash with me on it if the universe didn’t cancel it.”

I get dumped: “I appreciate you for having the foresight that we are not a good match, and I have a better one coming, and by closing the door, you are opening the door to the next.”

I get sick: “I appreciate the time to slow down and focus on my physical health, so that when I recover, I can be more mindful of staying balanced and healthy in my life, recognizing how important my body is to maintain. Plus, there’s some Netflix I’ve been meaning to watch, so thank you for that.”

My employee quits: “I appreciate what you’ve brought to the company in your time here, and by leaving, you are giving the opportunity to the next person who will be more equipped to take us forward to the next stage of our growth”

And when I get sad about Karina: “I appreciate all of the love that we shared, for the depth of love that we experienced over the course of our relationship that I never knew existed. I appreciate all of the pain that I feel, because it is nothing more than a reflection of that love, and I would take this pain with the love a thousand times over, because I’ve learned that love is all that really matters in life, and I am lucky to have had such an experience with you.”

This is the power of appreciation. It works for everything, always. Life is a blessing, just being here is incredible. So, no matter how many bad moments we have, there is always plenty to appreciate. The beauty of appreciation is that it is contagious. Tell someone you appreciate them and why, and it will change their day. Or, treat them with appreciation, and they will feel that energy. You both will. And it is transformational.


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