Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Our contemporary American culture sows the seeds of discontent in every aspect of our lives. We are found wanting by the media and advertisers every day. We need to lose weight, gain weight, change our hair, get new makeup, bulk-up, slim down, make more money, live more simply, please our husband/wife/children/boss, worship more, work less, seek more balance, shop smarter, spend less, have a bigger house, follow fashion, reject trends, increase savings, and live like there's no tomorrow.
No matter what message you are hearing, there's always another one, the exact opposite message, from some expert who wrote a book or blog or was on Oprah or in the Huffington Post. And he or she KNOWS what you need and is giving you the keys to happiness if you just have the courage to follow their advice, which is usually contained in 3 or 5 or 10 easy steps, or achievable in 30 days, or some other memorable integer.
And I know it's very possible that you do need to lose weight or live more simply or increase your savings. But that's not really the point. Contentment isn't about what you should or must or need to do in your life. Contentment is about finding the very center of who you are, learning to steady yourself there, and becoming comfortable and joyous right in that space, right in the middle of yourself and your life.
You need to make changes? Go ahead and make 'em. You need newness? Go ahead and create it. But it's a myth that you have to hate yourself or let disgust or guilt or shame or any of the awful stepsisters of discontent goad you into change. You can actually love and accept yourself with some real compassion, you can own all the things that have led right up to this moment, and absolutely decide that it's time for something new - and still be content.
Contentment isn't complacency. It's not pretending that everything is fine when it's not. It's not ignoring the needs in your life, financial, emotional, spiritual, physical..., for the sake of appearances. It's not lying to yourself or others about the true state of your heart and mind. Contentment is acknowledging, with the humility of honesty, who you are, at your best and worst, without the violence of self-judgement, and with at least the same amount of compassion you would show to any other struggling human being who had the courage to confront bottom line reality.
There's a certain kind of self-respect in contentment that says I have value, and there is meaning to my existence. And if your life isn't an accurate reflection of this truth? Well then - make some changes. Not because an advertiser wants you to have more hair or firmer thighs or longer-lasting nail polish. But because you recognize who you are, and you know that you, like every single one of us, has something to give, and no one else can stand in your place to give it.
Like most things, the power of contentment is very simple and very human. When you are content, when you sit right at the center of yourself, there's no distraction and there's no waste of energy trying to manipulate yourself or others into believing a lie about who you are. You see yourself clearly, calmly, and with love. And the biggest secret is that once you see yourself this way, you start to see others the same way too, and without even trying.