What causes us to abandon appreciation during the holidays? The same cause of why we abandon it on any day. It’s the absence of something vital to us all.

Morning stretched itself awake as I made my way down to the shore and joined the handful of early risers. Lacy edges of waves lapped gently over my feet, and I scrunched my toes in the warm sand. Good time to build a sand castle, I thought. It was a modest construction, done mostly for relaxation and meditation, not necessarily one anyone would pause to admire. After I finished the basic shape, I began to decorate it with shells I found on the shore nearby. A boy about eight years old walked up and began to kick at the castle. I wondered what was in his mind for him to do such a thing.

What happened next happened quickly; it was a spontaneous action on my part, with no thought involved. I held out my hand filled with shells and said, “Here, help me put these on.” He stopped the kicking, looked at me, then took the shells and began to place them on the castle. We decorated in comfortable silence. “I’m out of shells,” he said after several minutes. “Get more,” I replied. He did, giving some to me. After a while, another little boy came along and started to kick the castle. My assistant started to fight him. I said, “Give him some shells.” The new boy worked with us for a couple of minutes then left.

When the entire exterior was covered in shells, we stepped back to look at our work. “We did a good job,” I said, “Thank you.” His eyes met mine then turned back to the castle and the result of our efforts. “It’s time to go,” he said. I watched him as he walked away and wondered how long our creation would remain intact. The next morning, I found the shell-adorned castle still there. It was evident that only nature had touched it with its tide.

The boy had been surprised when I extended my hand to him rather than yell at him to stop kicking, the former possibly being a more familiar reaction to such behavior. My response gave him a moment to think, or maybe he didn’t think but just chose to act instead of act out, just as I had when I asked him to help decorate with shells. He chose to invest time and energy into his ornamental efforts then felt a need to protect the creation when someone sought to destroy it. Perhaps in human consciousness, Investment equals Connection. How different life might be if we assumed our connection to everyone and everything first. Investment in each other and our world would be automatic.

If we don’t feel or perceive our connection to something or someone, it’s easy to either not care about it or them, or to mar or destroy without thought or awareness. I accept what quantum physics reveals to us: All in existence is comprised of the same energy that is everywhere in the universe. The only separation is, ultimately, in our minds. After we peel away all layers of manifestation, absolutely nothing is there, nothing but the shared consciousness in all things and the potential for manifestation. Whether we call that consciousness the Creator or we call it Pudding doesn’t matter. It’s real. It’s who we are. We just haven’t fully grasped that yet.

This week in the U.S., is a holiday we call Thanksgiving. Most people will spend part or all of the day with others, usually family members. We’re supposed to deliberately celebrate in accordance with the name of the holiday, but that isn’t how it always goes. Some will treat the day as one to celebrate all they appreciate. Others will add stress and strain to the “menu.” Others will bicker or seethe in silent resentment. Once again, we may hold fast to the belief that we’ll feel better about life or so-and-so when everything and everyone fits our imagined mold for it or them. The quote “Familiarity breeds contempt” could be changed to “Familiarity breeds bad manners when we forget to first treat others as we wish to be treated.” We often treat strangers better than we treat those closest to us. We, falsely, imagine that everything goes on just as it is; that everyone around the table will always be there. We take far too much for granted. Everything changes.

Even if we know it would be a better experience for all involved to appreciate all that we have and everyone in our life, we don’t do this as well as we might. We know there are reasons: ego-mind wants what it wants when it wants it; scars from old emotional wounds act up, particularly at holidays; we’re out of harmony with life the other days of the year, so why should a holiday be any different; and so on. Appreciation needs to be a deliberate act practiced daily, just like any other significant self-care action.

Connections go faulty for many reasons. Only our investment in restoring them can bring them back or make them even better. This isn’t always possible, mostly because connections are two-way, not one-way. But we can adjust our thinking about any one-way connections in our life. We can choose to wish all people well, even if it isn’t realistic or wise to share our lives with them. We can find a way to appreciate what we learn about ourselves, especially our Spiritual Selves, through our every interaction with others and life.

And what about appreciating our connection with the Infinite One? Imagine being a provider, supplier, gift-giver of all things and hearing complaints or ingratitude most of the time. Thank goodness the Infinite One’s love is unconditional. If we strengthened this connection first and most, the other stuff of life would fall into place through trust in the bigger picture and purpose of all things, and through Law of Attraction.

Whichever holidays you celebrate from now through the end of the year, maybe you will keep these things in mind:
1. Be deliberate about sincerely thanking others, especially those you often don’t, like those who provide services you take for granted.
2. If you’re a guest in someone’s home, especially family, leave your ego and resentments at the door and look for ways to assist them with all they need or want to do for their guests. Look for ways to appreciate them and everyone you share the holiday with; catch people doing something right—and tell them! Maybe real connection will be experienced, and maybe it won’t. But a genuine expression of appreciation soothes; it goes a long way.
3. If you’re hosting the holiday, appreciate all you’re able to share with others. Appreciate those who traveled to join you. Appreciate the fact that if you keep your energy light (if you lighten up), you’ll help your guests to feel relaxed. Relaxed attitudes have better experiences than tense ones. We usually get tense at such times because we either want everything to be perfect (let that go and just do your best) or we want others to behave a certain way. Let that go, too, and be a spiritual observer—of yourself and others.
4. Appreciate the Infinite One, and do this with all the sincerity in your heart. If you spend a holiday alone, this is a wonderful use of your personal energy, though it’s a good practice every day.

Here’s something written by Ernest Holmes in The Science of Mind, to also keep in mind during the holidays and every day: There is One Infinite Mind from which all things come. This Mind is through, in, and around man. It is the Only Mind there is and every time man thinks he uses It. There is One Infinite Spirit and every time man says “I am” he proclaims It. There is One Infinite Substance and every time man moves he moves in It. There is One Infinite Law and every time man thinks he sets this Law in motion.

From time to time, I wonder if the boy remembers that moment, if it had any influence in his life. That moment is still a golden thread in my life’s tapestry. It was a lovely, peaceful solution; a shared act of loving kindness toward a stranger who would become a momentary friend. When someone gives us a challenge, perhaps we can offer them some “shells,” which is our offer of connection with each other and investment in each other—that vital “something” that’s missing from or ignored, in many respects, in our personal and global lives.

Every challenge is an opportunity to expand who we are, to expand our investment in ourselves, our life, and in others. If we practice peaceful solutions with smaller challenges, we can more easily and readily seek peaceful ways to deal with the really big ones. And, isn’t that what love would do? It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.

Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer

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Author's Bio: 

Joyce Shafer is a Life Empowerment Coach dedicated to helping people feel, be, and live their true inner power. She’s author of “I Don’t Want to be Your Guru” and other books/ebooks, and publishes a free weekly online newsletter that offers empowering articles and free downloads. See all that’s offered by Joyce and on her site at http://stateofappreciation.weebly.com/guest-articles.html