Contentment = Deep Happiness
Contentment comes from accepting and being grateful for the way things are - even if things go ‘wrong’.
I’ve really enjoyed exploring what it means to be content this year...one example of how I’ve done this is during my recent trip to Kathmandu, Nepal.
After a weekend packed full of fun and transformation bringing the Museum of Happiness to CreativenessFest, I fell ill. I got sick with a stomach bug...but that’s normal - it’s Nepal! I didn’t fight it - I was quite surprised how well I accepted it.
Consequently, I missed a flight to see Mount Everest the next morning and lost my deposit - again, I accepted that too. I can see it on Google Maps anyway. At least I didn’t release more greenhouse gases or wake up for an early flight!
My body ached and I got a temperature - that’s normal - at least I didn’t need to go to hospital.
I had many other things to be grateful for: the extra time in the city gave me an opportunity to meet with locals, discover Artudio, help them find a new web designer, get this blog post done, and finalise my presentations for Teach Mindfulness @Work program. I even had time to prep my talk for Mind Conference at Google Berlin. Great!
I missed out on a trip trekking in the mountains, but instead had a personal trek within myself, and had time to discover so much more about awareness, kindness, contentment, expectations and happiness. Thank you stomach bug (and thank you paracetamol too!).
To be content, rather than making the world match your expectations, make your expectations match the world.
You will have an annoying boss. There will be be traffic on the roads. You will miss your train.
That’s not negative thinking - that is realistic thinking, and will save you a whole load of stress when it inevitably happens.
Although you don’t expect things to always go well, you can train yourself to see the bright side of the situation anyway...and that feels awesome!
Yes, some situations are destructive and you need to take action to move on and of course that’s the sensible thing to do. But usually, life is going just fine the way it is, and all that’s required is a gentle shift in your attitude.
Long-lasting contentment arises when you stop waiting for happiness. Instead, you relax into the moment and accept things just as they are.
Are you thinking...
‘But how do I feel more content? I’m stuck in this cycle of negative thinking and in this very frustrating relationship and job...it’s easy for you to say wandering around in Kathmandu, but what about me?’
...then try the following exercise.
This exercise is designed to cultivate a deep sense of contentment, peace and happiness.
Relaxing Contentment Exercise
- Right here and now, as you’re reading this, decide if you want to do this exercise for the next few minutes or not. If you decide yes, please make yourself comfortable and relaxed and give the exercise your full attention. That decision is important.
- Become aware of your body. Get a sense right now of how your whole body feels. You may notice some sensations that you don’t like...See if you can accept the sensations you feel with a loving awareness. Readjust your posture if you need to, so you’re even more comfortable...that’s an act of kindness for yourself.
- Feel all the sensations in your body...take your time.. feel your body with a caring awareness...a friendly awareness...with mindfulness and kindness...say to yourself, words like ‘I’m happy with this experience, just as it is’....or….’let it be’....smile as you feel your body. Enjoy the experience of being with your body...as you let go of wanting things to be different, enjoy any feeling of contentment grow within you...you can even be content with a lack of contentment...just be with your breath and body…
- If you find your mind wandering a lot it’s because your mind wants to be somewhere else. Your mind isn’t enjoying the experience...So, give attention to your mind...be kind to your mind rather than fighting, ignoring or controlling….You’ll find your mind will soon get bored of wandering to the same old boring thoughts, and will want to go back to feeling and relaxing your body with softness, gentleness and peace.
- Rest in this experience for as little or as long as you wish...the exercise will naturally come to an end when it feels right for you...it may be just for a minute...or maybe for an hour...a longer or shorter time is not better or worse, as there is no time ultimately...there’s just now…all you need to be aware of, is now...
- As you re-engage with whatever you do next, carry any positive experience of contentment with you...the peace can be profoundly healing and pleasant.