Sage Patanjali wrote in the yoga sutras that contentment is an important personal practice. He said that the highest form of happiness comes from contentment.
Thought I’d be further along by now.
Things can be going fine and I’m happy with everything. And then I think, Where do I get off feeling content when so many are hurting?
Unless the ancient wise meant for us to tune out the world’s problems along with our own and become comfortably numb, how can this work?
I catch a glimpse of our time in a certain way that is without preference. I know that in this moment it is not for me to prefer that anything be other than it is.
So I’m off somewhere and there’s a trio playing – mandolin, bass, guitar. The guitarist is singing about how she’s driving nails in her coffin over some man who done her wrong. And the three of them have a good down home groove going. And the little kids are dancing, and the dogs are wagging, and the sun is shining and I’m thinking, Where do I get off being discontented?
But some of the people in my sight are lugging around some heavy troubles. I know this to be true. I know some of the people here on this sunny day, and I know that some of them are hurting. And I know that in this world there are many more who suffer mightily.
How can I find contentment in the face of this?
I’m listening to them play a Doc Watson tune…
Let it rain, let it pour
Let it rain a whole lot more
‘Cause I got them deep river blues
All these beautiful, smiling people around me, and I know that there is pain here and likely more to come.
And yet, I am content.
I realize that my contentment is not without sorrow.
I can throw my mind out of focus a little and see the whole thing at once. I can see joy made deeper and quieter by sorrow.
Easy for me to say.
No doubt it’s harder for some than for others to hold joy and sorrow together in contentment.
Some feel worn down and just hanging on.
And there are all the bewildered innocents buried beneath calamity…
But I have the possibility before me.
And having the possibility, I have the duty.
If it is within my nature to hold joy and sorrow together in wholeness and not turn away from either, then it is my duty to do so.