Not As Easy As It Looks

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.

Sounds good.

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.


16 responses to “Not As Easy As It Looks

  1. During my yoga teacher training we spent a lot of time on the Sutras and philosophy. I always questioned everything. How can we be content all of the time? Are we supposed to ignore the world around us? Then I read a book by Stephen Cope and he said it’s not about complete withdrawal. That instead we have to cultivate peace within and take that and “live in the world.” Use our dharma as a way to help others and be of service. And also let go, stop trying so hard, and trust that the universe has our back. That helped me a little. But I also think, sorrow and pain are a part of life and we have to sit with those feelings and work through them. Instead of trying to ignore them and reach some ideal stage of enlightenment. Sorry this response turned into a novel, but it’s been on my mind lately. Also, my comments go to spam a lot so I may be stuck in spam jail, silenced by the spam brigade.


  2. Well my dear one, you do manage to boggle my brain sometimes. Then I think too much and then I get lost in my own thoughts. Then I step back and go, um, what just happened? Where did I just go and why did I feel the need to even go there?
    So then I turn around, come back down to my feet and return to what I know to be true for me… my own version of simplicity.

    I think, or for me anyways, when I sit with all that is “me”, that’s when I’m able to help those around me, those who cross my path and then drift away, or those who stay for a while. When we don’t hide from ourselves, when we breathe life into our emotions, when we give them a stage to play out all their drama in all their glory, that’s when we are MOST able to help others. When panic takes the stage, don’t hide and cower in the corner, rather shine a light on it and go “My, how glorious you are today. What do you have to say and what may I learn from you” Lo and behold, panic will puff right up and prance around, yell, scream, change colors and then, panic feels better and changes form; changes into comfort or acceptance or whatever may suit the moment. Does that mean panic no longer exists? Noooo, simply means panic has changed and been incorporated; that it’s no longer true “panic”.

    Of course, you can substitute “panic” for anything else…happiness, joy, sorrow, pain, anger…the list is seemingly endless. But, the outcome can be the same for ANY of those…take them in, love them for all that they truly are and be with them.

    So how does this relate to the world? Well, in my simple view of things, when we open and embrace all that we are, all that lives and breathes inside of us, then we are open to helping. Change takes time. Change happens on its own timetable, not ours. While situations in the world often times feel futile and overwhelming, painful and agonizing and make anything but “sense”, they are only temporary…change does eventually come about. Flowers grow out of the pavement, trees sprout up through rocks and caterpillars turn into butterflies.

    It takes one drop to raise the ocean. It takes one heart to warm another. It takes one smile to turn someone’s day around. We are all one, and together, we all make a difference. Together we hold the others up…and when it’s our turn, they hold us up….and to me, that’s what it’s all about…


  3. Well, I like reading all of this, it gives me lots to think/feel about. I don’t have anything to add, except that last night I was reading a poem that I think speaks to the idea that we could hold both great joy and great sorrow together, and that to do otherwise is to miss the incredible depth that this life holds for us. So, yes, I agree, it is a duty to do so if it is within our nature to hold both.

    So maybe others might like to read it:

    The Holy Longing

    Tell a wise person, or else keep silent.
    Because the massman will mock it right away.
    I praise what is truly alive,
    what longs to be burned to death.

    In the calm water of the love-nights,
    where you were begotten, where you have begotten,
    a strange feeling comes over you
    when you see the silent candle burning.

    Now you are no longer caught
    in the obsession with darkness,
    and a desire for higher lovemaking
    sweeps you upward.

    Distance does not make you falter,
    now, arriving in magic, flying,
    and finally, insane for the light,
    you are the butterfly and you are gone.

    And so long as you haven’t experienced
    this: to die and so to grow,
    you are only a troubled guest
    on the dark earth.

    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


  4. Dear Lonesome Lotus aka David,

    Old Ike would be proud of this blog. It’s thought-provoking, insightful, and honest. Plus, you have sick writing skills and I love your poetic, free-flowing, use of words. I’m unsure of your stance on blogging awards, but I nominated you for the Reader Appreciation Award. The “rules” are on my page:

    P.S. May still be relegated to spam. Damn the man.


    • Thanks for the kind words, Colleen. I’m a fan of yours. I think I should adopt a no awards policy – if I start getting recognition it might threaten my “Lonesome” status. Waiting for your next post!


  5. Beautifully written. How can we be of service to a world who suffers if we are in discontentment? That’s one of the ways I see it. The struggles that plague me are no different than half a year ago. They linger with the same intensity. yet ever since I found peace and joy within myself, they seem like ants to elephants. Being in contentment has allowed me to objectively solve some problems and let the others flow since seasons change and somehow life works itself out.


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