Appreciation, Gratitude and the Gifts

Unnamed Ridge, Sunshine Coast, above Rainy River, 2009

Here’s an analogy. Person X was born with some abilities and capacities that enabled them in their youth and adult life to be a fast runner. Person X was “born fast”. They are fast. But that doesn’t stop them from working hard to become even faster. They can commit to “fastness”; they can learn more, practice more, work hard.

I wasn’t born fast. But I was born grateful. Instead of being speedy, I was gifted with being appreciative (especially on wilderness trips). And I still work hard to become even more appreciative. I am committed to practicing gratitude.

Being consistently appreciative is the result of a set of skills. These are skills related to things such as: the control of attention, awareness of purpose, the habit of reflection, etc. I work on these skills so that my gratitude comes from an authentic and disciplined place (yes, there is a discipline involved in authentic appreciation).

Appreciation disrupts the Catastrophe.

Packing up in the rain, Palliser-Spray-Whitman, 2021

In an earlier post I made the case that outdoor adventures take place within the Catastrophe. Being consistently appreciative disrupts the Catastrophe. Maybe its raining or snowing (in the summer), or maybe the bugs are horrendous, or maybe the bushwack is tougher than I thought it would be. But if I can find several things to appreciate, the trip feels more like an adventure than an inconvenience. The Catastrophe is disrupted. Sisyphus smiles.

After practicing Gratitude in the Catastrophe (and after a particularly tough day slogging through deep snow on snowshoes with a full pack) …
Sisyphus smiles.
South-Central Purcells 2007.

Being “Gifted”

One of the strategies that I use on trips involves the concept of “giftedness” … but perhaps not in the way that the word is usually defined. My concept begins with the idea that I have been given a number of gifts (kind of like birthday presents). For example, I was given a fully operational body, and a fairly capable mind. I was born in Western Canada, and I was “given” a great role model (my father).

My father and role model on the summit of Mount Baker, Washington USA, early 1980s.
This man was a gift.

From a young age I was taught to say “Thank-you” for the gifts that I was given. And I was also taught that the best way to show my gratitude was to use the gift in a manner consistent with: 1) the purpose of the gift, and 2) the intent of the gift-giver. I was taught that if I like a gift, I should show appreciation by using that gift to the fullest. And so, in the examples in the previous paragraph I:

  • try to use my body in ways that honour that gift,
  • try to use my mind in ways that honour that gift,
  • try to explore the mountains of Western Canada because it is full of gifts,
  • try to emulate my father’s sense of playfulness, thoughtfulness and character.

The Small Stuff, the Big Stuff, and the Tough Stuff

I practice appreciating the Small stuff …

So that I also get better at appreciating the Big stuff …

And I practice all of that so I can develop the disciple to appreciate the Tough stuff …

Maintaining a sense of Appreciation … even in the Tough stuff. Clambering over avalanche debris on route up to Haynes Pass and Tower Lakes 2012.

2 responses to “Appreciation, Gratitude and the Gifts”

  1. Each time I begin my 13 kilometre cycle up Cypress Mountain it is important for me to be in the right mindset. (It’s also a good idea to have plenty of gears on my bike). My mental state at the beginning and throughout the cycle is one of appreciation for the steep and long hill ahead of me. If I encourage myself to be thankful, patient and to enjoy the climb my mind and body will work in concert to achieve my goal.


  2. Mike is both physically fit and mentally fit. I know that he works on his physical fitness consistently … and he also works on his mental fitness consistently. So … when he talks about: “My mental state at the beginning [of the ride]” … he is not just making a decision then and there. He has worked consistently over a long period of time to develop the wherewithal to make the decision to be appreciative during that long, grueling uphill ride.
    For Mike … Appreciation is a Practice, a Discipline.


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