All the birds have flown up and gone;
A lonely cloud floats leisurely by.
We never tire of looking at each other –
Only the mountain and I.
Li Po – “Alone Looking at The Mountain”
It was said that it is difficult to be content with few things, but impossible with many. There is something about spending time in the mountains or in some other natural scene with seemingly few things that you could call your own that calms the mind and soothes the soul. I suppose it is the fact that such scenes tend to evoke a deep appreciation for the nature of life, for its selflessness, generosity, adaptivity, etc.
Appreciation opens the door to contentment. If you ever find your self short on contentment, you are also likely lacking in appreciation. The latter inevitably leads to the former, if you are genuine in your appreciation. Even a moment of appreciation will lift your spirits, albeit momentarily.
To appreciate fully, you must disengage from the practice and application of ingratitude. Just as appreciation is the door to contentment, ungratefulness opens the floodgates of discontent. Unfortunately, ingratitude does to the bulwark against the ills of life what a small leak does to a dam. Create just a small opening and you will soon be drowning in grievances and hardship.
Conversely, appreciation works with miraculous precision and swiftness to repair the breeches, heal the wounds and smooth over the wrinkles in your life. If you don’t believe me, try it! But don’t give it a half-hearted, “see I told you so” effort. Truly appreciate the world around you, animate and inanimate. Marvel at its beauty, ingenuity, grace and poetry. Relax into it. Give yourself to it. You won’t be disappointed.