Contentment : con·tent·ment : /kənˈtentm(ə)nt/
“a state of happiness and satisfaction.”
Our consumerism society is dependent on its members believing that they need to acquire things in order to achieve satisfaction and happiness. We are taught that we need to be a certain weight, wear/use/drive certain brands to be better, own specific items to feel a sense of satisfaction or to reach a desired or enviable status among our peers. And in the age of social media, where it is popular to post pictures of yourself having fantastic adventures, there is added pressure to go places or do amazing things to achieve a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. We are taught throughout our lives that the measure of success is how much you have, how good you look, and where you have gone. The emphasis is placed more on achieving and doing, instead of being.
I am reminded of a book my mother used to read to me when I was a child; Frederick, by Leo Lionni. It tells a story about a group of mice getting ready for the long winter ahead. All but one mouse scamper wildly around gathering things they need to survive the long cold winter. All but one; the last mouse, Frederick, just sits there, daydreaming. The other mice get frustrated with him. Why isn’t he doing more? Gathering more? Why does he seem so oblivious to the sense of urgency in this moment of dipping temperatures and dwindling supplies? Surely, he should feel as distressed as the rest of the mice do? Why does he seem so calm and content when the rest of the mice are so busy? But then, in the cold of winter, when the mice are all bored and cold, Frederick warms and entertains them with the thoughts and images he gathered during his summer. It teaches us that yes, physical things can be essential for survival, but so are the thoughts and ideas that are inside of us, that can be obtained just by sitting quietly observing our outside world.
This is a good lesson to remember no matter what age you are. I often feel like I should be doing more. I feel guilty if I have not achieved enough or scratched enough items off of my “to-do” list at the end of the day. I catch myself feeling selfish if I spend some time in the day just reading or thinking. I need the gentle reminder that Frederick offers, that moments of just being are to be savored and that true contentment resides within us already. We don’t need to have more or do more to find it. In the book, The Yamas and Niyamas, author Deborah Adele writes, when describing Santosha (Sanskrit for contentment):
“Rather than experiencing contentment, we can find ourselves busy getting ready for the next thing, tossed about by our preferences for what we like and what we don’t like, and riding the waves of annoying disturbances. The jewel of Santosha invites us into contentment by taking refuge in a calm center, opening our hearts in gratitude for what we do have, and practicing the paradox of ‘not seeking’.”
By embodying Santosha, we can let go of our expectation that doing is greater than being. We can practice being content with wherever and however we are in the present moment, without the need to do anything more. By choosing to focus on gratitude for what already is rather than seeking to acquire or achieve more, our sense of abundance and contentment will grow.
Written by Kristine Moser