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Today I want to write about contentment versus apathy. It seems like the two are often confused, seldom understood. But once we look at these ideas side-by-side … the difference is clear. Apathy is when we don’t care. When we are disinterested and mostly disconnected from our surroundings. Contentment, on the other hand, has a peaceful essence born of living more deeply with greater awareness of our spiritual dimension. Which do you choose?
“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart…live in the question.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
I love Rilke’s thought here because most of us have many questions, most of the time. And sometimes we think we can’t be content with those questions — we let them drag us down, let them gnaw at our day. But as he reminds us, this is when we must “live in the question.” Life will never offer us answers to everything, nor will we always find the answers that we dream about. Some answers we will want to reject, ignore, or modify to our liking. But contentment is still possible, and most desirable, because feeling constantly malcontent is another form of suffering.
- This is a great topic for meditation and reflection.
Can we catch ourselves sinking into feelings of dissatisfaction? Do we take the external world too seriously, thinking everyone “out there” has found nirvana? It’s easy to be impacted by popular media; easy to be influenced by what “looks” like much greener grass. But it’s all a mirage.
Unfortunately, younger generations are drawn in by the dazzle of what seems different or better or “new.” And this futile search can lead to a variety of problems, some more serious than others.
I don’t think it works, however, to simply tell ourselves to be content. We have to “discover” that part of ourselves, and yes, it may take many years of suffering (of trial and error) to get there. But once we touch the kind of contentment that doesn’t shift and sway with external events, it’s something we’ll never forget or abandon.
So even when things remain “unsolved in your heart,” as Rilke puts it, contentment is still entirely possible. And wise. We are all “bigger” than what is going on around us. More than circumstances, beginnings and endings, but this level of inner awareness isn’t common.
- Yet as Whitman once said: “…I am large, I contain multitudes.”
A malcontent individual is always seeking “something else” … something that doesn’t seem available or possible. Thus, they tend to live in the future, instead of exploring what is right before their eyes. Even a simple lifestyle in a quiet place can open the inner door of contentment. But most of us have to be convinced via experience. The process can take years, and much destruction occurs in the wake of this critical discovery when all we ever needed to do was to look deeply within — deeply into our surroundings.
- The secret to life is everywhere, in every context.
Eckhart Tolle offers guidance: The power is in you. The answer is in you. And you are the answer to all your searches: you are the goal. You are the answer. It’s never outside.
- How will you end your suffering, discover contentment
that is not contingent on external circumstances? Thanks for visiting, see you Friday, October 24th.
My next studio guest is Sukey Forbes, author of The Angel in My Pocket.
Remember: If you haven’t looked within, you haven’t looked.
- FOR more about my book, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place, please visit that page here in SunnyRoomStudio.
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