The Practice of Appreciative Joy

For a while, I've been experimenting with the practice of appreciative joy. It has been challenging, liberating, and everything in-between. Through slow integration, I continue to come closer and closer to living my values and showing up as a truly am.

You may be asking what is appreciative joy? The Awaken Into Relationships (AIR) Program with Kiyomi LaFleur and Alexis De Los Santos, describes this concept as a timeless quality of love, and defines it as “gratitude and rejoicing in others happiness and peace. Moving away from envy, jealousy, and judgement”.

Appreciative joy also relates to the Metta Sutta, the Buddha’s discourse on loving kindness, which as Sharon Salzberg states, “cultivates a steady, unconditional sense of connection that touches all beings without exception”.

But how do we actually integrate this practice, especially when working through past wounds and projections? Given the nature of the mind, I think it is fair to generally say that practicing appreciative joy can be very difficult (hint: that's not a bad thing). I can say for myself, the first attempts to do this practice were hard- a lot came up for me that I did not want to admit or face. At times, it felt fake, forced, or just down right uncomfortable. We were told in AIR this was to be expected and to give ourselves time and space to give and receive love. As a song by Trevor Hall put it, “You can’t rush your healing”.

The first step of the practice was starting to become more aware of the different parts of myself. Including how my inner critic, ego, and past wounds show up in my day to day life and how I might project these parts of myself onto the world. I eased into this by observing what came through my awareness without trying to change or fix anything (oh sooo hard). Initially, I was horrified/sad/confused with what came through my awareness. Eventually, I began to loosen the grip on different thoughts, feelings, sensations, and began to observe them like a movie and from a place of curiosity. I began to identify less with the judgements and societal expectations flowing through my head. The role of the watcher become easier.

The second step was leaning into the space I created in the first step to foster appreciative joy. I did this in four main ways, which you may find useful:

1. Fully receiving kind words from someone

I would fully receive kindness by placing one palm over my heart and breathing into the compliment to allow it to soak in, to be real and true, in the here and now. If intrusive thoughts and feelings of doubt or guilt emerged, I let them co-exist as I practiced receiving this gift of connection from someone else.

Another technique I would use is savouring. I would try my best to savour the moment by fully appreciating the kind words, taking some breaths, making eye contact, and gently smiling where possible. I would also relive these moments before going to bed (further savouring).

Affirmations were also helpful, after receiving appreciation, I would often say to myself “I am worthy to be seen and heard”, or “I am worthy of appreciation in my life”.

2. Rejoicing in others success and happiness

Instagram is a playground for this one (would definitely recommend easing into it for maybe 5 minutes at a time, as it can be distressing, but will depend on where you are in your own journey). While scrolling on Instagram or other social media platforms, I would rejoice in the success and happiness of others by placing one palm on my heart and taking deep breaths and/or repeating kind words to myself such as "I see you", "You deserve to be seen and heard- I rejoice for you". I would also sometimes reach out to them to say congratulations and let them know I appreciate them, as well as take time to catch up with them where I could.

As a lot would come up for me, I would use some grounding techniques such as tuning into the five senses (see, hear, touch, smell, taste) to call me back to the pres