In Praise of Contentment

resting buddha contentmentWhen did contentment become less than enough?

The ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu may have considered contentment to be the greatest treasure, but in our fast-paced, achievement at all costs culture, it’s often viewed less positively.

Don’t settle.

Strive, struggle, work harder for more, bigger, faster.

Level up your summer!

(By buying our new car.)

Level up your burgers!

(With our ranch dressing.)

Bring your mouth to the next level!

(By buying a product that I can’t even remember; only that the commercial is annoying.)

Your mouth. Next level. Whatever the heck that means.

I’m not having it.

I am wallowing in contentment these days.

And muting the commercials. No apologies. For either.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I’m not sad, furious, and often terrified of the horrible stuff going on our country and the world or heartbroken over the Henry-related destruction in Texas.

It’s just that I’m choosing to remain a bit more present to and grateful for what’s going right.

Maybe it’s is an unanticipated positive consequence of the recent eclipse or, more likely, the result of (years of) (often intense) personal work.

Doesn’t matter which.

I’m content and I’m loving it.

Especially since it’s happening at the end of August, a time when, as a student, I was consistently a bundle of nervous excitement and, late in my career as a teacher, a hot mess of fear and dread, and at the end of every summer I can remember, exhausted from trying to pack in as much late summer fun as possible.

This year, I’m content, and that’s more than enough.

I’m curious, too, which led me to pull Kara McLaren’s book The Language of Emotions (https://karlamclaren off my shelf to see what she has to say about contentment.

According to author and empathic-healing educator McLaren, contentment tends to arise after an inner achievement (check), when you’ve successfully navigated through difficult emotions (check), and restored your boundary, honored boundaries of others, and corrected your actions or made amends (check, check, and check).

The eclipse may have marked a turning point, but all of that introspection and self-coaching seems to have been my contentment catalyst.

It’s not that I’m not excited. I can’t wait to get back to the routine of new clients, teaching a few mornings a week at the arboretum, creating new workshops and group coaching offers, and returning to weekly symphonic choir rehearsals.

And to reiterate, it’s not that I’m not anxious, sad, and angry as hell about the madness in the country and the world, the storm devastation in Texas (have been sending prayers and energy since it began; cash followed soon thereafter), my mom’s increasing care needs, or about whether enough new clients will show up.

I know that it’s possible to hold different, contrasting emotions at the same time.

I know that my contentment, like all emotions, won’t last forever.

Knew it, in fact, even before I read McLaren’s suggestion that the best way to respond to contentment is to welcome it, acknowledge it, thank it, and then let it go completely.

Like all emotions, my new-found contentment will shift and ultimately fade.

What a joy, though, to feel it now.

To know that coaching helped me to experience it.

To trust that embracing contentment means making space for a deep, quiet, and ultimately enduring sense that there are, in fact, many things right with the world and that paying attention to the world’s right-ness will become a lasting and stabilizing rudder with which to navigate the inevitable lows and welcome highs.

Which makes contentment more than enough.


image: Pixabay; used with permission

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