Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

5 Lessons in Love and Appreciation

I’ll be honest.

I didn’t transform into a total love bunny like Alex Blackwell, Tess Marshall, or Zeenat Syal.

But it was a sweet month of love and appreciation.

I set out on 30 Days of Love and Appreciation with the intention to send or express a loving or appreciative message at least once each day.   Not a huge, complex challenge.  Just baby steps.  The idea was to place love and appreciation at the forefront of my mind instead of lurking in its recesses.

Love is our essence, but it doesn’t come naturally to all of us.  Some of us grew up in a harsh family environment.  Or the water element is absent from our astrological chart.  Or some other factor came into play.

Don’t despair if this has been the case for you. You can learn to love, but it takes focus.  These are some of the lessons I learned from giving it a try and committing to 30 days of love and appreciation.

Lessons Learned from Committing to Love and Appreciation

1. Making a clear commitment helps you to remember and keeps the momentum going.

We may feel love or appreciation, but more often than not we forget to express it.  It’s not at the forefront of our mind.  It’s not the number one priority.  Making a commitment to 30 days of love and appreciation was the perfect way to activate these qualities in my life.

“Silent gratitude isn’t very much use to anyone.” – Gertrude B. Stein

2. The more you focus on love and appreciation, the more spontaneous it becomes.

I didn’t mention the challenge to my husband, but he picked up on the change in my behavior quickly.  From that alone, you can see the challenge worked.  I didn’t focus on acknowledging him, but the kindness took a life of its own.  It just started to spill over.  As you can imagine, he thoroughly enjoyed being the automatic recipient of my extra positivity!

“Only your compassion and your loving kindness are invincible, and without limit.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

3.  The more you appreciate others, the more they want to help you.

Appreciation sparks kindness and generosity in others.  For example, the produce manager at my health food store gave me all sorts of tips on organic gardening including how to grow peanuts that don’t contain the aflatoxin toxin.  Love and appreciation are truly the way to be wisely selfish.

“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” – Mark Twain

4.  It’s easier to appreciate strangers than to express love toward them.

I felt uncomfortable expressing love toward strangers, but appreciation came easy.  That’s OK.  I can still  feel love in my heart, share a smile, or tell the person I “love” something about them like the color of their eyes.

“Because of your smile, you make life more beautiful.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

5. You can train your mind in love, kindness, and appreciation

It’s so easy to forget love and appreciation amidst the busyness of our lives.  Remembering to express love and appreciation just once a day is such a tiny fraction of my potential.  Still, there were times when I was busy and let it slip.

It is possible to train your mind in love, kindness, and appreciation, but it’s a positive habit you need to commit to every day.

“Happiness is not something ready made.” – Dalai Lama

The Love Mishaps

When my husband left the top off the blender and turned it on, love did not bubble up.  It wasn’t easy, but I tried to remember what he says when I make a mistake:  “I know you didn’t do it on purpose.”

I also was annoyed by a few young male bloggers who use vulgarity to stand out.  Not because I’m moralistic.  I just don’t like the energy behind it.  I confess I even succumbed to tweeting about it.

Both of these occasions helped me to see where my love gets blocked!

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” – Carl Gustav Jung

Reflection:  Only Love Dispels Hate

The reflection I’ve chosen for this week is a quotation from the Buddha.  I’ve actually been reflecting on it all week long.

Sometimes we read a quote and think, “Oh, I know that.”  But unless we are living love – in this case – in every moment, the truth within the quote hasn’t fully penetrated our being.  Contemplation means taking quiet time to actual reflect deeply upon the meaning of a phrase to bring its truth alive within us.  Here’s the quote.

“Anger never dispels anger, only love dispels hate.” – the Buddha

More than anything this month, I learned that love and appreciation are the path to true happiness and the way to a better world.

How was your month in terms of love and appreciation?  Have you ever known anger to dispel anger?  Have you seen love dispel anger?

This article is part of a weekly series of reflective exercises to help you – and me – uproot limiting thoughts, emotions, views, and habits. See more mini-mind challenges.

Thank you for reading.  If you liked this article, please share the link with others using the share buttons below.  And I would love to hear from you in the comments.  Thanks so much for your kindness.  Sandra

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44 Comments

  1. A couple of my friends helped us out yesterday, making us feel much love and gratitude. I got on a couple of other people’s sites which made me very grateful. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anger turn to love.
    Great post! Will try to remember it in my day to day life.

    • Hi Lisa,

      I’m so happy to see you. You’ve been in my mind of late. Kindness does make us feel good doesn’t! Love makes the world go round. Thanks for your thoughts. I wish you well.

  2. Sandra,
    If you can see love when you see me it’s because you are love as well. In fact your blog has a very loving and caring message, your message. I love your husband’s line. I’m going to adopt it beginning today. Thanks for sharing your space with me. Love me. xoxo

    • Tess,

      Thanks for your encouragement! I know I’m not a lost cause or anything. 🙂 I would like to become more and more of a loving presence. I love that line from my husband too! You are the best.

  3. Real love and compassion is wonderful, but so often those who toss the word “love” about are not really loving us at all ~ they are attempting to manipulate us:

    “If we are skillful, friends can be like treasure chests, from whom we can obtain the precious wealth of love, compassion, patience, and so forth. For our friends to function in this way, however, our love for them must be free from attachment.

    “If our love for our friends is mixed with strong attachment it will be conditional upon their behaving in ways that please us, and, as soon as they do something we disapprove of, our liking for them may turn to anger.”

    https://nrhatch.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/tell-me-lies-tell-me-sweet-little-lies/

    It is in the doing that we become.

    Thanks, Sandra

  4. Nancy,

    This is so true. Attachment really obscures love. Thank you for bringing out that point. I appreciate your thoughts so much.

  5. I am not a “love bunny” either. It is funny, because I would say that I used to fit this description. However,I realize now that my giving was not authentic and came from a place of need and lack.

    Now, I tend to be a more detached and have to make a conscious effort and remind myself to be more appreciative and loving. Funny how I went from one extreme to the other.

    Thanks for the little suggestions and tools to accomplish that.

    BTW: I would not have been loving either when the top was left off of the blender!

    • Debbie,

      The change you’ve gone through is interesting. It really is a testimony to coming to know your true self. Often when we go to an extreme, the pendulum swings back to the other extreme. You’ve clearly needed to focus on yourself to heal and recover. As times go on, perhaps you will find yourself less detached and come to more of a middle ground. I found that being more loving was so nice for me, so that gives me an impetus to continue in my small ways toward total love bunny-dom!

  6. I shouldn’t say I loved this post…that would be too much a play on your words. But, that is how I feel. I read your original article on the 30 day experiment, and then promptly forgot it.

    After an article I recently wrote about affirmation (that you so graciously left a comment on) I have become somewhat more attuned to the subject. But, starting today, right now, I am enlisting in the 30 day challenge.

    • Bob,

      I loved your article on affirmation – the way we all thrive on being affirmed and acknowledged. The idea really ties into this one. The funny thing is that in the end we benefit as much or even more than the people we are affirming, appreciating, or loving. So please go far it and have lots of fun with it!

  7. This reminds me of the kindness game I played with my daughter. We would look for opportunities to be kind to people during the day. One point for each kind word or act. Two points if the recipient was a family member. At dinner, we would compare notes. It is a different mindset when you deliberately look for ways to be kind. We both learned a lot from playing the game.

    A 30 day commitment will build great habits. I have enjoyed this month’s posts very much!

    • Galen,
      “Deliberate” is really the key word. Thanks for underlining it!

      What a great game to play with your daughter. That is one fabulous idea and the way to change the world. A terrific investment in a young person. I’m so glad you told us about it. Thanks so much!

  8. Sandra,
    This is completely beautiful…how you have embraced love this month, and recognized where that hasn’t always been present. Really, this is just so touching…a gift for me today as I think about LOVE and how openly I express that….

    Much, much love to you…always,
    Lance

    • Lance,

      Thanks for celebrating love with me today! I’m so grateful for your beautiful heart. All my love to you.

  9. Dear Sandra Lee,

    I love this post – anytime we can be reminded about love and appreciation I’m on board.

    I had a great love month. After returning from the holidays in Pa. visiting my family and friends I wrote each one of them (about a dozen people). I sent a lovely card and told each person how much they meant to me.

    In the process, I was blessed tremendously by recognizing how much love I have in my life.

    I like your tips about how to offer love and appreciation. And I totally agree, it grows and becomes a habit. A good habit!

    Warm regards,
    Lauren

    • Welcome Lauren,

      What a wonderful “love month.” How rare it is that people take the time to write a card and express their appreciation like this! I find this so inspiring and am happy the process also infused you with love.

      Thanks for taking a moment to leave a comment. I wish you the best with your new blog.

  10. Dear Sandra,
    The authentic sharing of your journey touched me. Your writing style flows and tenderness and flows from you throughout the post.

    The contrast between love and hate is stark. That contrast helps us value love while understanding the ramifications of hatred. Gandhi once said:

    “Hatred ever kills, love never dies. Such is the vast difference between the two. What is obtained by love is retained for all time. What is obtained by hatred proves a burden in reality for it increases hatred.”

    You have inspired me. I’m nowhere near being a love bunny in this life. But there’s still time left and any time is the perect time to open one’s heart and be love.

    Thank you for being a dear friend,
    TiTi

    • time thief ~ Thank you so much for your kind words. They are very meaningful to me.

      This is quite some quote from Gandhi! This is beautiful: “What is obtained by love is retained for all time.”

      This is the spirit that will transform the world: “But there’s still time left and any time is the perfect time to open one’s heart and be love.”

      Thank you so much for sharing this quote and your own inspiration.

  11. I have to admit that I completely forgot about your challenge until reading this post, but your experiment really speaks to me. I’m not only a far cry from being a ‘love bunny,’ but hubby has accurately described me as a ‘cactus cat’ (a mythological, aloof bobcat with prickly thorns all over). I’ll take that as a sign I need to work on showing love and appreciation.

    This has been an introspective month; I’m facing some major decisions about what I want to do with my life, and I’m hoping to decide soon and get on with it. I look forward to being less distracted with my own stuff so I can address how I treat others.

    • Hello Jennifer,

      True confession now: my husband used to affectionately call me a ‘fierce creature’ so it would appear we have something in common dear ‘cactus cat’!

      I wish you the best in your decision making process ~ sounds major! You might even love the love thing when you come to it, it can be easy and fun.

  12. I agree that this is a discipline that can be built on over time.
    Though sometimes vulgarity will step in the way, sometimes the wall put up will be too tall’
    There is nothing worse than being stopped dead in you tracks when doing a good thing
    Interesting thoughts here Sandra

    • Hi there,

      I’m so happy you took a moment to leave a comment. It’s funny ~ sometimes an off-color word doesn’t bother me in the least. I’ve discovered that it all has to do with the energy behind it. When it does bother me, I realize the aversion is mine and mine alone. A place where I need to work because hate has never dispelled hate.

      Wishing you the best!

  13. “The more you focus on love and appreciation, the more spontaneous it becomes.”

    We should all make this a motto for life. The world would become so much more of a happy place to be.

    Happy are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.

    • David,

      That’s an equally powerful motto about giving and taking. Thank you for that. These are the ways to transform the world.

  14. Sandra! You Beautiful Beautiful Gal! See how you have embraced and hugged love….and you call me love bunny…;) Youre the bunny love love all the way. Till now closet love bunny hmm 🙂
    Such a beautiful post Sandra! The quotes are little pearls of wisdom.
    Thank you fro the link luv too 😉 I am always happy to be the love bunny anywhere anytime 😉
    Lots of bunny love coming your way,
    Z~

    • You are a beautiful inspiration, Zeenat. I know you will never stop spreading love, inspiration, and joy! We all are benefited from the way you shine. Thank you.

  15. Hey Sandra,

    How did you get so invoked in the ideologies of love and appreciation? Was it something that came out of the blue or did i manifest over time?

    • Hi Jonathan,

      Cultivating loving kindness is a part of my Buddhist training.:) So it’s not out of the blue, but a regular part of my life…till my cup runneth over! Good question. Wishing you well.

  16. So glad I found you through Momentum Gathering…

    I always find that when I show love and appreciation it comes back 10x – makes it a little easier to remember the intention when someone does something really annoying 🙂 (like leave the top of the blender)

  17. Hi Sandra like a few of your readers I had forgotten your challenge. But now that i remember it I can share some thoughts.

    Your reading a commenting on my last blog post was appreciated very much. I think that one of the ways in which those who do survive the Cleansing that the Native people of Turtle Island speak of is going to be genuine caring and a sharing way of “economics”. I use this word rather broadly.

    Your comment vaguely asked how those with severe disabilities might survive when more abled bodied person don’t. I think that one way is that some of them can be taught to overcome their frustration and resulting anger.

    A great example is of a person I worked with who passed away a couple of month ago from pneumonia. Richard was a very big man and very angry with the world when I first encountered him. He was so mean and dangerous that the teacher Gail Ostman and myself were not supposed to work with him at all.

    But we did anyway and that willingness to give him genuine kindness and respect calmed him down. I worked with him for about six years. He even learned (apparently only in my presence) to share with other students.

    The point I wish to share is that even those labeled autistic and or severely retarded can learn compassion and benefit from genuine loving kindness and respect.

    Have a great day Sandra and keep up the great writing.

    • That’s a beautiful story, Gary! It really illustrates the power of love and kindness.

      This is a really interesting idea: “I think that one of the ways in which those who do survive the Cleansing that the Native people of Turtle Island speak of is going to be genuine caring and a sharing way of “economics”. Normally, we assume that it will be survival of the fittest, but what does fittest really mean? Maybe it’s time for a new definition.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You are a deep and caring thinker.

      • Thank Sandra for the lovely compliment.

        I couldn’t agree more we need a new definition of “fittest” and I suspect a whole lot more.

        As for being a deep thinker. I have been accused of that before. Maybe it’s the Pisces/Aquarius thing? Whatever it is I’m learning to appreciate all the beauty and the various things we normally take for granted.

        Once again. Have a great day.

  18. This is a wonderful challenge. Though I haven’t taken on such a challenge, I’ve been more aware of love in recent months. I was never good with self-expression, but for love I’m willing to open up a little more, and try a little harder to express myself in the most genuine fashion I know how. For me, the next step in expressing love is to actively recognize interconnectedness – basically, get to know my neighbors. Be friends with them, send them wishes of love and fulfillment. Right now when I encounter everyday people, fear gets in the way. Social anxiety twists me up and I forget that I wanted to be friends with the shopkeeper nextdoor. Perhaps putting love at the ‘forefront’ of my attention would help.

    What do you think of this actually? I’m guessing you opened up more to strangers, and received positive feedback. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    • Lynn,

      I agree interconnectedness is at the heart of it all. When I wrote the initial post, some people understood me to be encouraging love for those close to us. That’s a great start. But it’s even better if we can love without limits…slowly, slowly.

      I think it’s a gradual practice. It’s always best to try these things out in baby steps. I’m also more reserved and less comfortable around strangers like you. But there’s a positive feedback loop that happens. When you open a little and express a little friendliness and kindness, it usually comes back multiplied. That makes it easier the next time. Go slowly, have fun with it, but also respect your own comfort levels. That’s been my approach.

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

  19. Hi Sandra,
    Thanks so much for this. Those of us who are lucky enough to have found your blog are certainly going to be able to pick up the habit of self-love and appreciation! Thank-you. Thank-you. Thank-you!!

  20. Hi Sandra,

    I love the reference about the water element in our astrological chart. I am Aries Sun, Virgo Moon and Cancer ascendant. I used to think that my Cancer ascendant was a curse, but as I matured I learned to manage my emotions better thanks to my Virgo moon. That aside, you are right. Love does not come naturally to us. But like everything else in life, we can learn to be more loving if we want to.

    Like you, appreciation comes easy for me. I always make it a point to let others know that I appreciate their help in any way. After all, no one owes me anything and I feel it is always important to acknowledge the efforts of others. This applies to people who are close to me and strangers.

    I agree that it is easy to read a quote, but it is harder to apply it to our lives. As such, our understanding may well be superficial. Only when we make an effort to apply our understanding can we experience its true meaning. This applies especially to your quote from the Buddha. Love and appreciation is truly the path to happiness and a better world.

    I have never known anger to dispel anger and I have long learned to keep my anger in check. In fact, I rarely get angry and when I do I rarely display it. As far as I can, I always make sure not to let my anger cloud my judgment. Even so, I have occasional slips, but I have had enough experience from my younger and more impulsive days to know the follies of anger.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article! 🙂

    Irving the Vizier

    • Irivng,

      I think this is such an important point that you have said, “After all, no one owes me anything and I feel it is always important to acknowledge the efforts of others.” In the Western world, too often we function from a mindset of privilege, as though we are royalty. If we could take this one principle to heart it would help to create so much harmony in the world.

      The beauty of astrology is that it illuminates our basic tendencies, so that we can work with them. Which you have done so beautifully in your life. It’s encouraging to hear stories of how people have changes and transformed difficult emotions. It gives us all hope.

      Thank you for your special thoughts.

  21. Sandra, this post was beautiful, heartfelt, and full of inspiring thought. Thanks for all you do.

    (I found the Buddha quote to be quite thought provoking as well)
    Marcus

  22. Yes I have noticed that when I share love with my husband, he appreciates me more. I do say what is on my mind though; I admit I’m human, and cannot always be the perfect. Wish I could, but I cannot.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your experience and your challenges. We’re all human! Knowing our self and accepting our imperfections is part of loving our self. Without self-love, we will have no basis for genuinely loving others. Thanks for your comment.

  23. james

    wow I need this, Ikno w am the most self centered person of my age, and I feel this voidness.. I need to change.. show love, compassion to others always looking unto the satisfaction of others…

  24. You make some good points here. I learned a long time ago that love and gratitude are action words and to love or to be in gratitude is a choice. Sometimes I forget, but when I choose the high road of love and gratitude I am always glad. It’s amazing how much my perspective opens up and offers me a better choice for responding.

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