This is my third month of implementing more fully and consistently changes to my social interactions and engagements which I have been contemplating and been drawn to for the past two years. One of my ongoing experiments to find better alignment between my inner world and external expressions focusing on appreciation.

I stopped congratulating people on their birthdays

This is a rather funny thing to me as I wasn’t allowed to celebrate birthdays into my early 20’s due to being in a christian fundamentalist cult that strictly forbade it. Then upon leaving the cult, as part of my deprogramming, I started celebrating birthdays. And now here I am stepping back from it, for at least a year, to challenge myself to find more authentic, spontaneous and inspired ways of expressing my appreciation for another’s being and my gratitude for our connection.

Beyond that lie a few more mystical or spiritual reasons of no longer wanting to consent to time divisions, manipulation of our natural cyclical nature by virtue of clocks and unaligned calendars and the trance of aging. But those are of a more ethereal, subtle and non-verbal nature to me and hard for me to put in accessible writing just yet. I have the feeling I will come back to this later this year.

It is fascinating to observe how strong the pull to comply with our social codes feels (peer pressure, conditioning), especially when social media platforms like Facebook enforce them without the choice of opting out of birthday reminders. It has become a daily practice of internal dialogues to detach myself from the emotional responses to not congratulating a loved one. 

Often asking myself why is it so hard to not be a part of choir of celebration? 

Don’t I trust my friends to know, sense and feel how much I love them without this formulaic ritual?

Who taught me that it was unloving or uncaring if I expressed my appreciation on any other given day but not this one? And what is that based on?

I started writing intentional and authentic messages of appreciation & expressing feelings of appreciation and gratitude whenever I feel them

I have held myself to a code of integrity and honesty for most of my life. Therefore I do not make a compliment that is not truthful and if I have nothing kind and appreciative to say I remain quiet. That took some practice and unlocked a deeper dimension of meaning and value to the words of affirmation, validation, appreciation and praise I speak – as they are heartfelt, honest and not serving an egoic manipulative agenda. At least not to my conscious knowing.

In reflecting on my expressions of appreciation I realized a while back that though I have achieved integrity and honesty in these I still allowed societal or cultural programmings to hold me back from expressing them as often as I felt and thought them. Thereby denying the other whose existence, deeds or expressions allowed me to tap into beautiful frequencies of gratitude, awe, adoration, admiration and appreciation to partake of it and become aware of who they truly are. This felt unbalanced and quite lacking to me. So I intended to express these feelings and thoughts as often as they occurred or I could make space to express them, to make it my intent and conscious practice of giving and mirroring back to those who enrich and illuminate my life. And so I brave the dangers of being misunderstood, judged or made fun of while trusting that what I say reaches the heart of another even if their ego might be incapable of receiving it.

In a world filled with endless messaging and cultural conditioning telling us about our many inadequacies it is a radical act of rebellion to be part of the growing choir of voices that truthfully speak to our gifts, beauty and power.

To me all of these messages are small modern day love notes. Reminiscent of love letters, the forgotten art of speaking to and engaging the ineffable as well as the luminosity of our being. Love notes to God/ the Beloved/ the Divine/ Universe/ Source through their manifestation as this individual consciousness. Expressions of gratitude, delight, pleasure and the enrichment I feel through and with them. 

This choice and practice bring a new dimension of inner alignment, a feeling of rightness and flow of love to my experience I no longer want to be without. And what is more, it has taken even distant acquaintances into a more heartful and nourishing realm of relating. Something our world definitely needs more of…

I would of course never tell you to stop celebrating or congratulating people on their birthdays. It is a rather touchy subject to many for reasons of insecurity and lack of self love or lack of understanding the other’s motives. Yet I would like to inspire you to reflect upon your expressions of appreciation and gratitude towards people in your life.

Do you feel happy with how and how often you express your appreciation? 

Do you feel you could learn or do something to make your words reach their hearts? 

Are you giving yourself enough appreciation and gratitude for all the ways you show up for yourself and others?

Can you come up with fun, playful and inspiring ways of seeding, cultivating and nurturing a culture of authentic, heartful and uplifting appreciation with others around you?

Photography: Balinese girl praying by Gede Lila
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