Why is that sometimes we need to suffer from adversity or experience the pain through others to appreciate the things we often take for granted?

There are plenty of stories and experiences out there from which we can learn. Viktor Frankl’s book Mans Search for Meaning is one classic example where he discusses survival and hope in a Nazi concentration camp. It is a truly inspirational book.

Reon Schutte is another who was held captive in a brutal Zimbabwean prison for 13 years where he came to understand the truths that allowed him to be free.

Unfortunately only once it’s all taken away can life be broken down simply into what is truly important and most valued. Part of living an enlightened life in a state of happiness and at peace is the ability to acknowledge these attributes of life which shouldn’t be taken for granted.

In fact, it takes time and effort to practice being grateful and achieving this state of well-being which is well explored in Buddhism and other religions. Each of us need to work our own way to practice gratitude – whether that be through prayer, reminders, a gratitude journal or even through meditation or yoga.

We shouldn’t have to experience pain to be able to appreciate the most things we do have now.

Here are the top two most important aspects of life which shouldn’t be taken for granted.

1. Freedom

Remember Mel Gibson as William Wallace in the Hollywood film Braveheart when he yell’s “FREEDOM?” He fought for freedom for his people as have many leaders have through the course of humanity. Only once you’ve been restricted physically or emotionally can you fully appreciate the feeling of being free.

Whether that be physically restricted as in having the ability to roam free, to come and go without restriction or freedom from physical abuse and to live without fear for our safety. In many cultures and cities, that fear still exists. The feeling of being liberated and free from oppression, imprisonment and slavery. People may even feel these traits at work or at home, with their boss, partner at home or with family to some extent. Sure we may not technically be slaves, but sometimes it may feel that way. Luckily though we have the choice in setting ourselves free in such circumstances. We have the freedom to choose and take action. We have the keys to our own shackles.

Emotional Freedom – the ability to freedom to feel and think without being harassed, abused, to speak freely. Freedom to act, choose and say. Freedom to laugh, think, say, act, feel, criticise, smile, cry and more. Have you ever felt that you couldn’t express yourself freely? This is a form of oppression.

Imagine your thoughts weren’t able to be expressed. There’s a long list of martyrs who have fought long and hard to be heard freely. Today we live in a digital world where we can say what we think on Facebook, Twitter and more and we can influence opinion from behind a keyboard.

Freedom means the ability to use your five senses: to see, hear, taste, smell and touch. This sounds really simple but its fundamental to freedom. Imagine being unable to eat chocolate for the rest of your life? I am sure you would probably cope,, but then imagine you were only given one bowl of vegetables a day. Reon Schutte was able to retrain his body to not feel starved and be at peace with a lack of nutrition and still eats very minimal since being free. Our western lifestyle offers us indulgences beyond recognition that many parts of the world still suffer from.

By appreciating our freedom we can experience pleasure in many simple day to day events which we would normally take for granted. “Wake up and smell the roses” is a great way to start and finish each day while acknowledging moments during the day in which we would normally otherwise overlook.

The same goes for your health.

2. Health

Why do we need to be standing at a funeral only to once again be reminded that our health is all we have? Without that we have nothing. Once we are in a hospital bed, or sick at home do we appreciate being mobile and feeling physically capable of doing the things we love doing.

No one likes being in bed for two weeks with an illness let alone on their death bed at a too early an age.

Appreciating good health should be a daily occurrence rather than an occurrence once we experience suffering, pain, illness or loss of life. Most people leave a funeral thinking about how they will change something about their life, only to click back in their day to day routines by the time they are on the road home.

Equally so, we wake up with our physical health and our mental capacity to function. Our minds are a powerful tool. Without our minds, we can’t function to our potential. If we are mentally ill, sick or weak, we are not at our fully functioning best. In times of adversity, we should awaken with the mindset that we have our mind and body available to us and its only up to our levels of determination to turn things around!

Sure we can overcome physical and mental illness and do our best. There are plenty of happy, successful people who are physically incapacitated, but I’m sure most would prefer to be fully functioning if they had the choice.

With freedom and health we can do anything. The rest is easy. Without freedom and health, we have nothing.

Here’s a scenario. If you had a choice to save yourself or someone you love and pay for their freedom or health would you spend everything you had? Let’s say it’s a ransom or a lifesaving treatment. It’s probably an easy answer. Losing everything financially to save yourself or someone close to you to be free and healthy to live is clearly worth losing everything right? Everything else can be rebuilt, hence this shows where money sits in the scheme of things.  Ironically though it’s money that would be required to ‘buy’ health and freedom in this scenario.

There is a list of a million other things we take for granted each day, like the ability to have internet and be online! How annoying is it when email doesn’t work or your internet crashes for a moment. See how trivial these things become when they are put in perspective!

The trick is to recognize and appreciate moments of ‘now’. Life is made up of lots of moments of ‘now.’ As it becomes habit, you can reach a state of higher contentment. Once the top 2 ticket items are well acknowledged you might find that your level of happiness flows down the list of things to be grateful for. However, let’s not wait until we are in solitary confinement or on our death beds to fully appreciate our freedom and health.

Featured photo credit: photopin via photopin.com

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