What does it mean, to be content? Is it even possible?
I will be the first to admit that attaining a mental or spiritual state of feeling truly content is challenging in this busy world.
In our era, the stock market, consumer indexes and virtually the whole economy is keyed around how much stuff we buy and how much we spend. Christmas is an economic failure if we don’t spend enough money.
To feed the open maw of this insatiably hungry beast, we are constantly barraged with ads, images, glamour shots, fashions, toys for old and young, amusements and other titillations encouraging us always to want more, need more and therefore spend more.
It seems we are systematically encouraged to be dissatisfied with our lot in life. This is the opposite of contentment.
Instead, we are encouraged to acquire the latest gadget, bauble or status symbol. There is always something new to buy or some new thrill to distract us and make us feel satisfied, at least for the moment.
But, just like a tasty dessert that is great for a few moments, the bubble soon bursts and we are looking around for the next best thing.
The whole equation seems like a setup for disease, depression, dependency, debt and disappointment.
Being content is very much a mindful state of being in the present. It is accepting what we are, who we are and what we have as enough.
This does not mean that we have no goals or dreams or that we somehow sit back and let life pass us by.
On the contrary, from a state of contentment, we can be more objective about what is really important in our lives, what we really need.
Otherwise, we are victims to the next glittery advertisement that tells us what that is and just what we must have next.
Being grateful for what we have now is the key. As one sage said, “We are never more than one grateful thought away from peace of heart.”
Opening up our hearts through gratitude allows contentment to take up housekeeping within us. So, if you are feeling anxious about not having enough or not being enough, the way through that frustration to contentment could happen by trying any of the five steps:
Try the Zen practice of emptying your mind of all thoughts for just three breaths. Let go, be at ease, breathe deeply and notice the immediate arrival of silence, peace and contentment.
Be thankful for who you are instead of comparing yourselves to others whom you have seen or even envied as happier, richer, more glamorous or more successful. Accept, too, that given all of life’s travails, you are doing the best you can under the circumstances.
Be grateful for what you have now rather than what you think you need next.
Notice the here and now, the sights and sounds and smells surrounding us in life and nature. Enjoy it as intensely as possible. Isn’t this enough?
Contemplate the reality of death, a state we all shall arrive at eventually. How much of what you have or are desperately trying to accumulate can you take with you? Perhaps focusing on the good you can do and the relationships you can build are the sustaining legacy by which you can choose to live.
So above all things, seek contentment. You will then attract what you need, what opportunities you have to serve, what love and harmony you can bring to the world.