Earlier this week I experienced the longest duration of sustained contentment I’ve ever experienced (or that I can remember). For three days straight, I was completely content. Nothing upset me, I felt no anxiety about anything, I felt no regrets about anything, the nuisances of daily life left me unperturbed, I didn’t say anything rude to anyone because I didn’t feel any annoyance or anger.
This bliss lasted three days because that’s how long it took me to realize that I hadn’t been unhappy in a little while. It took three days for my mind to realize it had been on vacation, and as soon as it realized it hadn’t been used in three whole days, it came back ready to work.
As soon as I realized I’d been content for a sustained amount of time, my first reaction was doubt. I couldn’t believe that that was even possible for me. My mind insisted there was no way for this to be real, certainly something had disrupted the experience of contentment in the last few days. But I couldn’t think of anything.
When my mind couldn’t find evidence proving my contentment wrong, it indulged in one of its favorite hobbies, worrying about the future. I began to wonder how long this feeling could last. And of course, as soon as I entertained that thought, the contentment was gone.
This experience was certainly unique for me, and posed some very interesting questions. The main question I want to dive into is:
Why does contentment freak us out?
I think it’s because people are scared of getting what they want. (Subconsciously, of course.) Because when you get what you want, especially if you’ve been wanting it for a long time, you have to confront the question: “Is this it?”
Did this meet my expectation?
Did the thing I wanted for so long actually do what I was hoping and expecting it to do?
Did getting what I want actually make me happy?
And if it did, if I got what I wanted and I’m happy, is this as good as it’s going to get?
Is this it?
But I feel that the experience of contentment can be summed up in one sentence: This is it, and I’m okay with that.
When we experience contentment for a sustained amount of time, it’s great at first, but then it gets scary because we worry that it will go away. We worry that this is it.
But contentment can’t go anywhere. We never need to worry about losing it, or it not lasting, because contentment is always available in the present moment. In fact, contentment only exists in the deep present.
When you really exist in the present, you will find contentment.
You don’t have to worry about losing it and not having it, you don’t have to worry about it running out and you not having it in the future, because it doesn’t exist in the future. It only exists right now. It exists in the realization and acceptance that this moment is all there is.
This is it, and I’m okay with that.
This is it. This is the present. This moment is all that there is, and I am okay with this moment. I realize that the present is all there is, that whatever is here right now is all that exists and I accept it for what it is. I am okay with the present. I am okay with what is right here.
So the second you worry about losing contentment, you’ve left the present moment. Because if you were in the present, you wouldn’t worry about losing contentment because you’d realize you already had it.
According to the Masters, Teachers, and Loved Ones, being freaked out by contentment when you first start experiencing it consistently is a natural experience, because the mind doesn’t know what to do. It’s not used to being content. The mind is not active when you’re experiencing contentment – it can’t be. As soon as the mind is actively worrying about the future or the past you have left the present and are no longer experiencing contentment. The mind isn’t used to you being content, because it’s not used to being idle. It’s not used to being fine and not worrying about danger. It doesn’t know what to do, so it starts to worry about the contentment going away. That’s the nature of the mind.
But that’s where your practice comes in. You need the awareness to catch your mind in real time when it starts to worry. When the mind slips out of the contentment of the present, into the delusions of the future or the past, your awareness is what will bring you back.
The stronger your awareness is, the faster you’ll be able to notice that you’re away from contentment and the present, and the faster you’ll be able to come back to it.
To sustainably dwell in contentment, you need awareness.
To get to contentment in the first place, awareness is also required.
To build awareness, meditate (engage in your daily practice with devotion).
Because the awareness you cultivate in meditation, will stay with you even when you’re not meditating. That’s what will help keep you consistently grounded in the contentment of the deep present.
The practice leads to awareness. Awareness leads to contentment.