Another Way
    Can we truly appreciate how wondrous our lives are?
    I was contemplating that last night as I drove home in my zippy red Hyundai, my Ipod blasting vintage Prince, fresh from enjoying a sumptuous dinner, watching the clouds turn a glorious pink as the sun set over New Mexico.  
    You've probably experienced some variation of this recently.
     There is not a religion or spiritual practice or Stuart Smalley desk calendar that doesn't tell us we should express appreciation for everything we're blessed with, whether it looks like we're blessed or not.
    With the exception of the sunset, we've experienced something that 99 percent of the beings who have ever lived on this planet would never know.
    But who's missed out, us or them? I think it's us. We've made true appreciation nearly impossible, at least in this country, in this time.
    There was a PBS show a couple years back, "Frontier House," that popped three modern families in the ol' Wayback Machine and transported them to 1880s Montana.
    As the cameras rolled, they built houses from trees they cut, made hay, raised livestock, hauled water, grew vegetables and wore uncomfortable clothes made from corn stalks. (I made that last one up.)
    Tensions ran high, in families and between families. Food supplies ran low. Wild animals threatened them. Then there was the woman who cried about not having make-up. Seriously.
    By the end of the show, it was determined that one of the families would not have survived the winter (most likely due to the great Make-up Famine of 1883). A second one had a chance. The third would probably have made it.
    It was good drama, as good as you can get on a fake reality show.
    An experience like that might benefit some of us. Instead of forcing everyone to buy health insurance, maybe the government ought to force us to re-live that show for a season or two. I mean the best survival story some of us have is about living on ramen noodles and Pabst Blue Ribbon in college.
    But let's take it a step further. How about we pretend we're a tribe of hunter-gatherers? We've got to traverse the steppes of central Asia and hunt down a mastodon with rocks and spears while we survive on ant dung.
    Assuming you weren't gored, and the 15 of you dragged the bastard back to camp, skinned it, carved it up and put it on a spit -- over a fire it took three hours to get going, not counting hunting for wood -- wouldn't that meat taste great? The best tasting meat you've ever had, right? Until next week, or next month, or whenever the next mastodon or the next squirrel, wandered by. In the meantime, you might pray to the mastodon god or sacrifice a virgin or two. That's how much you'd appreciate it.
    I can't say I've ever gone wanting, but I do recall a good lesson in appreciation. A few years ago, I was invited to participate in a Native American sweat lodge ceremony.
    Inside the structure, it soon became heatstroke hot, especially for a novice like me. I remember one of the other participants asking if anyone ever died during one of the ceremonies, and the leader replying matter-of-factly that he'd witnessed participants die, more than once.
    As I sat there braising, I remember curling my fingers beneath the edge of the enclosure, just to feel the winter air outside and know that if I could keep my fingers cool, I might just survive.
    About an hour or two into the ceremony, we each drank a few sips of water from a ladle passed around in the dark. Still the best water I have ever tasted.
    By the time we exited the sweat lodge, the temperature had dropped to below freezing and it was dark and snowing outside. I crawled out, sweaty, clad only in my underwear, hands and knees sinking into deep mud, dazed and nearly blind (without my glasses, I can't see shit.) It was the most primordial feeling I've ever experienced. I stood up, unsteady. I could not find my glasses or my clothes and I could feel the cold air, which for a few moments felt heavenly, begin to freeze the sweat on my back.  
    Someone managed to locate my glasses, or I would have known not only the spelling of hypothermia, but the actual meaning of it. I dressed quickly and joined the rest of my fellow lodge-dwellers in a warm house, with wall-to-wall food.
    But the feast was beside the point. After the sweat, I would have eaten bark beetles with ketchup and liked it.
    In a time when a life and death decisions revolve around what kind of Chardonnay to bring to the housewarming, things just don't seem as precious, or miraculous, as they really are.
    Nowadays it takes a death, or at least a near-death experience to register on our Richter scale of appreciation, and even that appreciation tends to fade with time.
    Which begs the question, if we can't appreciate the simple gifts of daily life, can we ever really appreciate ourselves in a spiritual sense?
    For many of us, that is the crucial question. If you are in the process of awakening you know that appreciation is a key.
    If you further accept the Busting Loose proposition that we manifest our own reality from consciousness, and that we are infinitely abundant, powerful and loving beings, then there is a lot to appreciate -- both the amazing illusions we've created and the Truth about ourselves. It seems pretty simple.
    But it also seems the bigger the miracle, the more we take it for granted.
    I'm thinking maybe the key to appreciation is in Robert Scheinfeld's statement that Phase 2 is about feeling and experience.
    No need to jump the Grand Canyon on a Harley. But do something simple. Men, next time you're in the meat department of your grocery store selecting steaks for dinner, take a moment and imagine you're picking up a slice of filet mastodon. Go back about 10,000 years and remember just what a thrill it was to kill that sucker, and just how good that meat tasted.
    Ladies, next time you're in the cosmetics department holding some Estee Lauder Turbo Lash Motion Mascara, think back to the old days and imagine how long it took to gather the plants to make the dyes to allow you to paint blue and red spots on your face for the solstice celebration.
    It's a first step.
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8/17/2009 01:43:29 am

Beautiful piece brother. I've witnessed the lack of appreciation for all things big and small from others. How can we overlook the time and effort spent, and the trials and tribulations that have provided for us in so many ways to the point where we now impatiently expect it? I constantly marvel at what mankind has been able to accomplish over the thousands of years of recorded history and most certainly appreciate it. Thank you

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