Find peace in what’s already here
Contentment and a general sense of wellbeing is our birthright as human beings.
Uninterrupted happiness is not.
There’s a fine but important distinction between the two.
The mistaken notion that we are owed happiness obliterates our sense of contentment. Unless we’re happy, we tell ourselves, things just aren’t good enough. So we begin this great adventure, searching outside ourselves for things we think will bring us happiness. More money. More friends. A loving partner. A better job. And so on.
These things can all bring us temporary relief from feeling things are not as they should be. But it’s a fleeting bit of comfort.
Worse, this endless pursuit of making this moment somehow better is making us miserable. We convince ourselves this moment, as it is, will never be good enough, that we somehow have to do something to fix it.
Contentment doesn’t have a chance within that mindset.
We will find peace when we come to really understand that happiness is one of several emotions, which is no more important than any of the rest.
Contentment and wellbeing are also impermanent, but tend to last much longer. They survive all other emotions as we accept them as they are, as they arise. We can continue in a state of contentment, even in sadness, confusion, grief and frustration.
Happiness does not continue to exist in the presence of those emotions.
Contentment and wellbeing march on, as each of those arises, as we see all emotions worth feeling fully.
We arrive at our greatest levels of peace and ease when we abide in these emotions, without judgment, not wanting them to be something else.
If there’s any doubt, think back to your earliest memories as a child, when all your needs were being met. The majority of us had food, shelter and love of family. For those who didn’t, we found a way to be content with whatever was happening in our lives.
If we had needs, we let out a bellow, and someone would come running with food, or a change of clothes.
If it’s difficult remembering that far back, watch a young child today. You may see them watching their hand with rapt fascination, or playing with whatever is in front of them. If they have needs, such as food or attention, watch them let out a periodic cry, then get back to being busy with what’s in front of them.
As we grow up, we learned the unfortunate lesson, that what’s in front of us isn’t good enough any more. We somehow got it in our heads that what was happening now needed to be fixed. We needed to put something there that wasn’t, or get rid of something that was.
This is clinging and aversion has long been identified as the source of human suffering. It would benefit us greatly to clear our heads of that idea.
Easier said than done, of course.
But we can begin by staying present and on task. That will greatly eradicate the miserable narrative we are spinning.
How do we get into this present moment?
Set your full attention on three breaths, wherever that feels most prominent for you, whether that’s the air at the nostrils, or rising and falling of the chest of stomach. Follow the breaths through their full cycle.
This brings a sense of presence and clarity. And for just a moment, you’ll realize, things are just fine the way they are.
Give it a try. Repeat as necessary.