This moment only comes once. If we put ourselves in the same place with the same set of people, the events will not repeat themselves in the same way.
The Japanese have a phrase for this. They call it ichi-go ich-ie, which means “one time, one meeting.” The English equivalent is “for this time only.”
When we recognize the unique set of circumstances that lead to an event, we learn to appreciate it. Although our lives often feel repetitive, each occasion is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
We can sit beside the same people every day, but each time we talk, the conversation changes. We can prepare the same meals, but each bite will taste slightly different.
No matter how hard we try, we cannot create a perfect replica of a previous event. When we understand these unique circumstances, we learn to appreciate the moment for what it is—a tiny speck in the spectrum of time that we can never relive.
Appreciate What You Have Before It Turns Into What You Had
Knowing a moment comes only once might sound depressing, but as cartoonist Bill Waterson once said, “If good things lasted forever, would we appreciate how precious they are?”
Before moving to our new house this summer, my six-year-old asked to build a time machine.
“Why?” I asked.
“So we can return to this exact moment, laying in this bed, under these warm covers,” he told me.
“If we invent a time machine, this is precisely the moment where we will meet,” I say in response.
“Ok, until then, let’s snuggle,” he said.
And with those five words, I memorized the color of the walls, the feeling of the soft blanket, and the sound of his breathing as he drifted off to sleep beside me.
I relished the moment before it disappeared.
This Moment Only Comes Once
It’s not the only time I’ve tried to lock on to the present. My six-year-old started losing baby teeth this year, and every time a tooth falls out, I see a slightly more grown-up version in his grin.
Each tiny tooth is a gentle reminder that he won’t stay small and snuggly forever. When his first tooth began to wiggle, I grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures.
Each time the shutter clicked, I imprinted a vision of his adorable smile into my mind. Time won’t stop, but sometimes I wish I could pause it for a while.
Appreciate What You Have Before It’s Gone
It isn’t always easy to feel appreciation. Sometimes we can look too far into the future, ask too many what-if questions, and get stuck wishing we were farther from the starting line.
Recognizing this moment’s uniqueness helps us appreciate it. What if we never have a conversation like this again? What if we never see a sunset quite like this one?
Perhaps we can only live fully in the moment when we realize we cannot live that moment again.
Appreciate What You Have
Sometimes we find ourselves dreaming of better circumstances without appreciating what we have. Maybe you want a better relationship with your parents, a more exciting job, or to add more adventure and spontaneity to your life.
While it’s essential to have goals, it’s just as important to spend time reflecting on the things we take for granted.
When I pay the electric bill, I appreciate the warmth that fills my home. When my body doesn’t ache, I appreciate feeling pain-free.
In the middle of a global pandemic, many of us have come to appreciate our health. We are thankful for bodies that carry us from one point to another.
When we aren’t sick, we rarely appreciate the feeling of breathing without coughing or sniffling, but what if we did?
Appreciating Where We Are On Our Journey
If we spend too much time reflecting on the future, we will fail to focus on today, so it helps to stop and reflect on our journey.
How far have you come from where you were a few years ago, last week, or even yesterday?
Reflect on your current financial state if you are racing towards financial independence. Can you pay your rent or mortgage without hesitation? Can you pay your electric bill automatically each month?
Have you ditched your calculator when you go to the grocery store or saved enough to explore a new passion?
You Never Appreciate What You Have Until It’s Gone
Years ago, I attended a meditation class. While I sat with my legs crossed, I found it difficult to get comfortable. I wanted to relax and experience that zen-like feeling, but instead, I felt the hard floor beneath me.
I wanted to lay on a soft mat with my head on the ground, but the only option was to sit upright. As I sat there, I missed my soft couch and the bed I meditated on at home.
Our instructor talked to us about appreciation during that class and asked us if we appreciated breathing. A few students laughed out loud at the question.
“Do you appreciate your breath?” He asked again with a solemn look on his face.
“Hold your breath,” he said. “Hold it for as long as you can. Then hold it longer. Hold it until you feel like you’ll collapse.”
We followed his directions, taking a deep breath and keeping it in as long as we could. Eventually, our lungs cried out for air, and each of us gasped. Some of us audibly, others more quietly.
“Now, do you appreciate breathing?” He asked.
“Yes,” we called out, nearly in unison.
“Now you can learn to meditate,” he told us, “And now you won’t wait to appreciate something until after it’s gone.”