January 13, 2021

Real Contentment isn’t like Scratching an Itch. Real Contentment is This.

The Power of Contentment: An Unheralded Emotion.

Such an unassuming word. Such a profound emotion.

I’m not talking about the contentment that is the opposite of discontent. That’s a fleeting feeling, rather like the relief of scratching an itch—quite good, but it doesn’t last. The discontent, like the itch, always comes back.

Real contentment is a feeling that radiates from the deepest part of our consciousness, bathing everything in its warming glow. It’s easily missed, overlooked in our search for its flighty, glittering cousin, happiness—but once acknowledged, it stays with us, a trusted friend.

People write books about the search for happiness. We could attain it, we think, if only we had the secret, the key to unlock its door. We search for this key in new bodies, new houses, new jobs, new relationships, even new cars. We enroll in courses that promise to help us find it. But it is all to no avail. We find it briefly, and then it flits off when we aren’t looking, leaving us bereft but nevertheless resolved to continue the search.

Perhaps it is to be found within. If we were more skilled, kinder, wiser, more spiritual—perhaps then our happiness would last. That’s why we make New Year’s resolutions. They’re a part of our never-ending pursuit of happiness. And like happiness, they are temporary. If only, we say, we could have kept them up, we would perhaps be truly happy.

Contentment, on the other hand, is not something to be frenetically pursued. People do not write books about it, or run courses. It is not found outside of ourselves in things, other people, or new skills. It exists quietly within us, waiting for us to stop our striving long enough to become aware of it.

Striving is noisy. It sets up a clamour in our minds that drowns out the voice of wisdom, waiting patiently for us to listen. We spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on changing ourselves, all the while listening to our interminable inner chatterbox telling us that happiness is our birthright, if only…

But every now and then, our chatterbox pauses to draw breath.

And if we listen hard enough in the silence, contentment will show itself.

It arrives without fanfare—there are no flashing lights, blinding flashes, cymbal crashes, or triumphant cries of achievement. Rather, contentment comes quietly into the chamber of our mind and takes our hand—warming, comforting, steadfast, and infinitely wise.

Of course, there are many things that try to destabilise our newfound feeling of blessedness. Especially now, in the time of COVID-19, we may have money worries, health worries, employment worries. Worries for our world and ourselves. But the pandemic has also given us an unprecedented silence that allows us to listen for the voice of our inner wisdom.

That voice tells us that we are enough.

We can still strive, but only in ways that are meaningful to us. Personal glory, trying to win, to outdo others, or to shine, become relatively insignificant. They are the icing, not the cake. Like happiness, they will be gone tomorrow.

The wise voice of contentment whispers to us of the virtue of living in the moment and rejoicing in things both small and large. Maybe the new recipe we tried, or the colour of our walls, or the beauty of our gardens is our joy for a while. Maybe it is the companionship of a cat, or the warmth of our community, or the love of a friend.

Contentment is, in a way, a form of eternal gratitude.

Unlike happiness, contentment comes to stay. If we make it welcome, it will infuse our lives with a quiet joy that cannot be derailed by pandemics, political unrest, or personal setbacks. Contentment is a force that can change the world, one person at a time.

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