Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Creature Called Contentment

What is the nature of contentment?

Drive is something which our society thrives on - indeed, drive is something without which much of civilization would not exist. Without the drive to do better, to innovate, to improve we would still be using outhouses, well water, and leeches.

But is what is true for the advancement of technology and civilization true for the advancement of the human heart?

"More, More, Bigger, Bigger" is the subtle refrain that often seems to run through our lives. We work to advance our grades in school, we work to advance our careers at work, we work to increase our holdings of many things. Try and bring contentment into the discussion and often you'll just get a strange look.

Contentment is a strange creature. To suggest that you will be satisfied with where you are, with what you have is often to be viewed as "crazy" - or more accurately, "does not show initiative". And there is a danger there - what we claim as contentment can really disguise a problem with sloth or indolence, which is not really contentment at all but a failure to use those talents and gifts which we have been given.

But all of that said, contentment is still something which seems to elude me far more than I seem to have a problem with the excuse of sloth. When I'm looking at my life - my career, my hobbies, how I spend my time - is the first thought in my mind "is this enough?" or is it "I need more"?

1 comment:

  1. Silverline10:37 AM

    Contentment – or as I call it living in the present moment - is a very interesting concept and not many people can actually practice it nowadays.
    I believe that the lack of contentment in our lives is grounded in two things – hope and fear. As I wrote previously, Buddhist philosophy (mainly Tibetan) believes that hope and fear are only two sides of the same feeling, and where there is one there is the other, they are never separated.

    OK, why is she bringing this up now?
    The First Noble Truth simply states that suffering exists - life is suffering. However, in our current fast paced society, when we feel uneasy, unhappy, when we feel suffering we assume that there is something wrong, that we personally did something wrong, that we are not following the path that we are suppose to follow…
    But suffering exists as a part of life – It doesn’t mean something is wrong; we didn’t do anything wrong.
    This is the point where hope and fear come in. Especially in our modern society, we are addicted to hope. We hope that all the doubt and hurting will go away, somehow, at the first sign of discomfort we change the situation – we run away from the situation as far and as fast as we can. Because we hope that somewhere, at some point in time, we will know what is going on, we fear that currently there is something lacking in our world, we hope that we will reach the perfect state of being, it seems to us that others around us have reached it, and in the same time we fear that we won’t. This cycle continues, over and over and over. We are addicted to hope. But both hope and fear come from a sense of poverty; form a sense that we are missing something in our lives, from the feeling of lacking [fill in the blank]. This way hope steals the present moment from us; it robs us of the sense of contentment you were speaking about.

    So, how does this apply to anything, how does it help in a difficult situation?
    Well, you know that I am not speaking from a theoretical point of view and that I had my fair share of tough situations ☺.

    One of my favorite meditation masters teaches: “if we are willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, than we can have the courage to relax in the groundlessness of our situation.”

    In a difficult situation, whether at work or in personal life, we can either give in to the situation, fall for the negativity of fear and desperateness or sooth ourselves in the hope that we can be saved from who we are right now. Neither leads to progress, “we are only as strong as our greatest weakness” (C. Prentiss) and there is no way around it, we cant change that at the current moment.
    Or, we can [this is the hard part] just acknowledge that right now, in this moment, we feel like a piece of …excrement… and have a good look why we do, purely explore the nature of that feeling, the nature of the dislike, embarrassment and so on, and not judge it as something wrong.
    By giving up the hope that there is an alternative to the present moment we can make peace with ourselves and with our current lives and that is where contentment comes from, the ability to be at peace with where we are and who we are at this moment.
    I know that this will sound like the biggest clich̩ ever Рbut we need to live in the presence Рnot hang on to the memory of the past or focus on the fantasy of future Рthat is the only way we can reach contentment. It is very hard, I can attest from my very recent experiences.



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