Attention, affection, appreciation, and acceptance. According to a meditative spiritual teacher I recently listened to, these four needs drive our existence. What are your thoughts? I think the four “A’s” about cover it.
His primary message was the four “A’s” are the root of stress in our lives, or the lack thereof if all are present in abundance. I would say none have all four in abundance, but I could be wrong. Naturally, we all need varying degrees of each, and why wouldn’t we? Some of our cups are overflowing in one or two of the areas, other cups are dry as a bone.
I confess I didn’t listen to his entire presentation. He spent the first 30 minutes of an hour presentation name-dropping and patting himself on the back. Not that I am opposed to giving oneself a well-deserved pat on the back once in a while because the reality is if we don’t sometimes others won’t either. What did get boring was the name-dropping; he met Deepak Chopra and now works for the physician turned guru, is friends with the Dahli Lama, knows myriad celebrities, I lost count of the number of high-powered names he dropped. I get it, people adore him, so perhaps he is the one person I know of who actually does have an abundance of the four “A’s”! Name-dropping aside, the points he made were valid, at least for the time I listened. I’m not sure where he went with his presentation, but I did think about his theory and here’s what I came up with.
I agree with him, we do need all four “A’s” in our lives in one degree or another and a lack of one or more will cause stress. How do we get them? Well, the first step is to gift them to ourselves. Psychology has been telling us for years we need to love ourselves first in order to fully accept love from others. The Bible says pretty much the same. Psychology and the Bible can’t both be wrong, right? Do you appreciate and accept who you are? Are you loving and attentive toward yourself? Appreciating and accepting oneself are two sides of the same coin; we cannot fully accept who we are if we cannot appreciate the unique being we were created to be. What do you appreciate about yourself and the unique creation you are? For some, we can appreciate our compassion toward others, our intellect, our skills, and abilities, but what about our physical bodies? Do we appreciate how wonderfully made our bodies are, how unique each of us is, how well our bodies have served us?
We live in a highly superficial society with high premiums on outward beauty, dismissing the fact many who outwardly appear the epitome of perfection are perhaps some of the most insecure and least appreciative of their physical attributes. Why? Because the focus is on the outward and not the beauty within. In our temporal world, outward beauty fades. As the outward fades, the focus is all directed toward maintaining what is fading leaving little time to focus on the eternal. True beauty is eternal and seen from the inside out. Some of the most beautiful people I have ever met will likely never be noticed for their physical beauty; their inner beauty so evident any societally-defined physical imperfections of the outward shell pale in comparison to the beautiful spirit within. Their beautiful spirits are a result of fully accepting their uniqueness, their gifts, and appreciating the gifts of life, breath, and every unique creation in a world of unique creations.
Attention and affection; these go hand-in-hand, too. We all crave them on some level, but do we give them to ourselves? Too often, and especially in women’s lives, attention and affection toward self take a backseat while we spend most of our time meeting the needs of others. Life is demanding. Physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual burn-out is the reality for many and we find ourselves so depleted we are open to all manner of disease and stress-related illness. We cannot be of service to others if our reserve tanks are running on empty. So, what is the solution? Make time for self, attend to soothing and replenishing the spirit within. Attention and affection toward self can be as simple as taking a hot bath, meditating while listening to sounds of the ocean, taking a walk, getting away from the cacophony of life’s demands. Carve out daily or weekly space and make space a priority. Find and experience your zen, practice the mindful awareness of the moment. Life is made up of moments we miss as we hurry from one moment to the next. Taking time for ourselves affords us the opportunity to gift ourselves with much-needed attention and affection. Taking time for self fills our reserve tanks and gives us something of value to pass on to others. We cannot offer much to others if we ourselves are running on empty.
Life is stressful, but it doesn’t need to take its toll. Mindful awareness in the moment and awareness of our needs requires practice and the reward is healthier minds, bodies, and spirits. If you are running on empty, it may be worth it to consider the four “A’s” and the best way to gift them to yourself…..