Contentment is a requirement for peace of mind, yet we live in a culture that fosters discontentment: Want more! Buy more! Be more! More, more, more ... but when is enough enough?
We are constantly bombarded by advertisements that often make us feel inadequate and promote a continual grasping for material wealth and sensual experiences. Hey, you! Buy this skin cream and your wrinkles will vanish. Oh, and you over! You need to eat this to be healthy and those shoes and that car to be cool.
We are taught to seek superficial gratification with no regard for future consequences for ourselves, other people or the planet. We become attached to things and people to avoid our personal discomfort and are led to believe that satisfaction of our cravings - as well as our egos - will win us a one way ticket to the land of Happily Ever Afters.
Oh contraire, mes amis! Ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and clinging to the sensual are actually obstacles (called kleshas) to our contentment and our prospects for liberation - of being truly free. These five kleshas are the causes of all suffering. Considering how these obstacles tend to resurface even on a daily basis, no wonder we can be so short-tempered, impatient and grouchy. Sheesh!
What is contentment?
How do we incorporate contentment as an "observance" in our lives?
Contentment is serenity, but not complacency. It is comfort, but not submission. Contentment is a decision, a moral choice, a practiced observance. It is not throwing our hands up and saying, "forget it" or "why bother." Some close their eyes to the suffering of others in order to maintain their own contentment. They confuse indifference with detachment, passivity with peacefulness, and isolation with equanimity. Contentment is the natural state of our humanness and allows for our creativity and love to emerge. It is knowing our place in the universe at every moment.
We can cultivate contentment by pranayama (deep breathing), meditation, keeping a Gratitude Journal of all the things we're grateful for, and practicing yoga postures, to keep our energies balanced and our mind serene. No matter what pose we practice - whether we love it or not - or for how long we hold it, can you practice a sense of being ok with what is? Even if your quads start to tremble? Even if your mind begins to wander?
The deepest contentment comes at those moments when we feel we are in the flow of life, when we are in nature, when our energies are positive and when we have no desires. By being conscious of these moments, we can strengthen, expand and sustain the feeling of contentment for longer periods of time. Even when we are surrounded by chaos and disharmony, we can return to this feeling of contentment and find ourselves back in a place of peace and quietude and by doing so, it becomes harder to lose our way when disturbances arise.