“You are perfect and wonderful just as you are.” Jan Hutson (AKA my mom)
True contentment comes from letting go of the belief that something is lacking and that if we can fill that lack, then we will be happy.
If I were thinner, more prosperous, had that degree, had that house, was married, was single, had children, was finished raising children, lived in the mountains, lived on a boat—if I was anywhere other than here. Then I would be happy.
Even while we walk the spiritual path, we can get imprisoned by the belief that we are broken and need fixing. We compare ourselves to others, and find ourselves either coming up short or feeding our egos. We judge others for not doing things the way we do. We defend our positions and try to make others understand our point of view. We “speak our truth”, we cajole, we kill ’em with kindness. All because we want to feel ok. We are all looking for this sense of inner peace, serenity, and contentment. We all want to feel like everything is going to be alright.
In reality, we need to let go of the belief that there is anything wrong. I am not promoting a sense of entitlement or lack of self-awareness, rather, that there is a destination that will make us all happy.
It’s a practice of contentment that allows us to be free of the suffering that comes from wanting things to be different.Tweet
But how do we practice contentment?
You remember that joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice.” It’s the same thing, we practice.
Here are some ways to practice:
- Either physically or mentally take yourself to a place that evokes a sense of peace and serenity.
- Bring all of your senses into this space.
- What do you see? Is the sunlight dappling through the trees on to the path in the woods? Or is it glittering on the face of the ocean?
- What do you hear? Are the waves lapping sweetly on the shore? Or are the bobwhites calling out to each other?
- What do you taste? Smell? Touch? Be specific.
- Once you have that vision or are fully present in this space, focus your attention inward. What is happening in your heart? Do you feel a spark of a smile? Allow that smile to move to your face.
Emmet Fox said, “A smile costs nothing in money, time, or effort, but it is literally true that it can be of supreme importance in one’s life.” So cultivate the smile. Even if at first you’re faking it. This is the beginning of the practice.
- Practice gratitude.
A simple google search will turn up pages and pages of the benefits of gratitude. Just like smiling, it costs nothing and has enormous benefits.
- Make a gratitude list.
- List three things daily for which you are grateful
- Send thank-you notes
- It seems old fashioned, but it not only helps you but the recipient. And why not spread some good feelings around
- Count your blessings
- Sometimes when I’m scared or upset, listing off the things that are going well can help shift my mood. “I have food in my fridge, a roof over my head, a bed, indoor plumbing, hot and cold running water…”
Practicing contentment is like anything else. It will take time to get better at it, but in the words of Emmet Fox, “Time is your greatest ally.” Practice contentment. Try it for 30 days. You can always go back to being grumpy.
Just for Today
I will try practicing contentment. When I start to feel grumpy or unsettled, I’ll mentally take myself back to my peaceful place and remember the smile.