It wasn't long after his first pleasurable bite of muffin that Dharma began my lesson for this week. "Tadpole, do you ever wish that your life was different? That, perhaps, you were more famous as a writer or that you had a bigger lily pad, faster car, or more money in the bank?" I thought about it for a little bit and then replied, "Sure. Sometimes. Doesn't everyone?" "I guess they do, my boy. And a little wishful thinking can help motivate us. But too much of it serves only one purpose; to make us unhappy. This week's lesson is about contentment; being happy with who you are and what you are. Irwin, the lily pad always looks greener on the other side of the swamp. And you know what? it rarely is any better. certainly, it can be larger and more luxurious but your problems move right along with you. Soon that wonderful new lily pad will no longer make you feel good and you'll want an even bigger, and more luxurious pad to call home. The wanting never ends. Finding contentment within ourselves and being truly happy with what we have right here, right now, leads to genuine peace."
"Teacher," I asked, "Is it possible to have goals and still be content with your life as it is?" "That's a very good question, Tadpole. The answer is yes. You can do both. So contentment isn’t a matter with being content with your situation in life and never trying to improve it. It’s a matter of being content with what you have — but realizing that as frogs, we will always try to improve, no matter how happy we are. If we don’t, we have given up on life. The same holds true for your human friends." Aristotle once said, "Happiness is self-contentedness." And he was right. Feeling at peace, feeling content is something that comes from inside us. It never comes from external things or from other frogs." The, as he always does, Dharma gave me the keys to finding internal contentment.
1. Happiness is a choice. Whether we are happy or unhappy is up to each of us. Even when your life isn't going well, it is still possible to choose to be happy. The lesson here is that it's not the external conditions that determine our happiness, but how we perceive them. When life throws lemons at you, make lemonade. That sounds simplistic, but it is sound advice. Use the difficult times to learn and to grow; make the experience the best it can be and know that it will pass and good times will most likely come again.
2. Happiness vs. contentment. They are the same, yet different. We can feel happy when we get that long-desired job promotion or when we move into our dream home. Happiness in that sense is fleeting. Contentment, on the other hand, is the feeling of being satisfied with what we have...right here, right now. It, too, is happiness but it is the kind that endures through the difficult times.
3. Simplicity. Simplicity doesn't have to mean starkness or having only the bare necessities. it is possible to live beautiful while still living simply. At its core, It’s about being content with less, with a simpler life rather than always wanting more, always acquiring more, and never being content. Do you really need that new cell phone with the ability to make your morning coffee? Isn't the one you loved and purchased only six months ago still useful? Dharma says, "Simplicity means examining why you want more, and solving that issue at its root. At the root of wanting more is not being contented with what you have. Once you’ve learned to be content, you don’t need more. You can stop acquiring, and start enjoying.
4. Finances. As odd as it may sound, becoming content can improve your finances. Uncontrolled spending, buying all the latest "must-have" items, is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserable. "Finding contentment with the stuff you have and with a simpler life can lead to buying less, to buying things we need instead of want, and to spending only when we can afford it." Once again, Dharma is right.
Finally, Dharma gave me the necessary steps to achieve contentment.
A. Count your blessings; develop an "attitude of gratitude."
B. Stop and remind yourself. When you find yourself unhappy with someone and trying to change them, stop and remind yourself to accept them just the way they are. We cannot change others. they have to change themselves. learn to control the things you can and accept the things you can't.
C. Think before you buy. The next time you feel the urge to purchase something, ask yourself if what you want to buy is a "want" or a "need." If it's a something you want, put your desire on hold. if you still want it in 30 days and can afford it, then go ahead and buy it. Usually, by then, we've moved on to another "heart's desire."
D. Take time to appreciate your life. Use the things you already have. Enjoy time in nature. Enjoy the wonderful people you have in your life. Let them know how much they mean to you. Give them a hug and a big smile. If they're far away, send them an email with a cyber hug. Learn to appreciate the simple things in life.
E. Take a deep breathe and smile. taking a nice long, slow deep breath calms us down. it's a proven fact that both smiling and taking a couple of deep breaths can improve our outlook. Sometimes that's all that is needed.
Life is good. The alternative isn't.
After Dharma left this morning, I felt a renewed sense of joy and contentment. I know that my life is pretty darn good, just the way it is. I have a nice place to live, great friends, and a loving and supportive family. Sure, I'd like to write a best-seller one day and maybe make it onto a famous talk show to promote it. But if that never happens, I know that my life will be okay. I'm pleased with the work I've done and each new day brings new joys and new challenges. And that's what life is really all about.
I hope you learned something helpful from Dharma's lesson this week, as well. Please stop back by tomorrow. I look forward to having you here! Until then, be happy, be content.