This past week I had occasion to turn to Living in the Presence: Spiritual Exercises to Open Our Lives to the Awareness of God by Tilden Edwards. One chapter is entitled, “Appreciating.” He speaks of appreciation as “a natural gift … meant to lead us to God” (p 115). Edwards suggests that “appreciation naturally appears the moment our self-concern is relinquished. It cannot be possessed and it cannot be earned; it simply is, a free gift, available everywhere” (p 116)
In the chapter Edwards offers the following exercise to open ourselves to God through thankfulness and praise.
1. Raise your open hands to shoulder height (the traditional Hebraic and frequently Christian prayer posture). Loosely hold them there as you take several long, slow breaths, opening your trust of God through all that is given.
2. Share the praise of one of the Psalms, such as 145 or 148, keeping your hands raised if it feels right to you as you speak, chant, or listen to it.
3. Now remain in silence for about ten minutes. As anything comes to mind, simply say, ‘thank you, God (or Lord)”, and gently release it. Let this be your response to absolutely everything that appears to your consciousness, including judgements, images, resistance, confusion, sin, thoughts, and sounds. Do not try for anything to come. Just be present in open appreciation of God in all that does come. Be thankful even for the “nothing” between what comes (then there is nothing left standing without praise between you and God). Keep in mind that St Paul said to be thankful in all things, not for all things. Your thanks is not meant to cover over bad things in your life that call for resistance. Rather, your thanks is your way of recognizing that God can bring good even out of the worst things, so there is not need for evasion or despair about anything.
You may want to prolong this time, letting yourself become more and more silent, and your thanksgiving more and more a wordless appreciative presence.
4. You may want to sing a simple song of praise or may be moved to include more physical expressions of praise, such as swaying and other movements.” (p 120)
Are you interested in giving this exercise a try?
What could happen if each day this week you intentionally set aside time to make room for appreciation, thankfulness, and praise?