Happiness. It’s our constitutional right to pursue it, but what exactly is it? Most people associate it with mildly continuous feeling of joy, but it’s closer to state of contentment in which one is okay with life as it is. It’s less a feeling and more a by-product of how we live.
Walking the path of contentment requires us to pay attention to the things that block our way. It’s usually in the mind. The ego has something to say about everything. You want to watch out for the stuff that’s hurtful or depleting.
By taking a breath and invoking curiosity, even the tiniest bit, we can learn how to find calm in moments of discomfort. In this way, cultivating well-being is a like a spiritual journey of acceptance. It takes compassion and strength to see ourselves clearly. The process of transformation begins when we let go of judgment.
You arrive at the airport and realize you forget your wallet. You have time to head home and back, so instead of panic frustration kicks in. Sitting with the frustration the first thing you notice are blaming thoughts. You remain focused on your breath to avoid getting caught in cycle.
The next sensation is a visceral hit to the gut that you recognize immediately. Shame. You take a deep, slow belly breathes and remind yourself that “nothing bad is happening right now.
If we catch ourselves in these moments, it takes just a few minutes to course correct. You don’t need to be meditating or isolated in a quiet place to learn how to do this. You can take a pause anytime. This little trick has saved me more than once from the giving the finger to a stranger while driving.
Blocks to Contentment
One of the blocks from learning to how to live from a more grounded place is our deeply rooted sense of entitlement. It shows up on the playground in the plaintiff screams of unfairness and continues to insuate itself into the fabric of our behavioral patterns.
Along with our sense of entitlement, we have ideas and expectations about what will make us feel happy – a large percentage of which is externally located: “If only I had a better job, the right partner, more friends, less stress…blah, blah, blah.”
Recognizing our “if only” attitude is the first step in extinguishing our sense of entitlement. It’s understandable to want discomfort to go away, but to do so is to choose an endorphin-fueled fantasy over reality.
Breath and Expand
The demands of entitlement are the ego’s way of dealing with the fact that we are ultimately powerless in cruel and beautiful world. Learning how to hold the tension of opposites with ease is our Golden Ticket to the Path of Contentment.
Here’s something I’ve been noticing. If something doesn’t go as planned, say milk is spilled or nick myself cutting vegetables, I hear sarcasm in my head. “Well, that’s great.” Until these negative comments are brought to light, they continue their shenanigans outside of awareness.
When you feel hijacked by a negative sensation, ask yourself: What’s in the way of contentment? Is anything bad happening? Can I surrender to what is?
Awareness allows us to see where we’re stuck, while compassion allows us to accept what it is. Together, the two help forge the way to greater and more lasting contentment.