Are you seeking contentment?
If you’re anything like me, you’ve seen the plethora of self-help books that exist, proposing that they hold the key to contentment. But what exactly is contentment?
The online Merriam-Webster defines it as the following: “Freedom from worry or restlessness; peaceful satisfaction. The state of being happy.”
The key words here are “peaceful,” “being happy,” and “freedom from worry.”
As I read this list of key words, it sure seems that our world desperately needs contentment—myself included. We are all constantly on the go, hurrying through traffic to commute to our jobs; working long hours to pay the bills; taking care of children, relatives, and pets; running errands; and cleaning, always cleaning. We worry, we rush, we try to pack too much into every day, and we rarely have time for relaxation. We search for happiness, and struggle trying to find serenity and joy amidst our daily hustle and bustle. It seems nearly impossible to answer this question: can we find contentment in this hectic world of ours?
Finding contentment might look different for everyone. For me, I believe that spirituality holds the key to contentment. My faith, for example, teaches me that true contentment lies in the spiritual realm, as opposed to the material world around us. In the Baha’i Faith, prayers, fasting, and meditations help guide us toward that realm, and provide us with the means for attaining contentment.
As I’ve practiced my daily prayer and meditation, I’ve noticed the similarities between meditation and the practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness—the process of being attentive to the present—involves living in the moment, and not judging experiences as bad or good.
Mindfulness research shows us that this practice helps improve health, reduce stress, gain a measure of contentment.
The Western world has only recently become interested in mindfulness; however, it’s been practiced in the East for many generations. Buddhism and Taoism have evolved mindful meditation practices for centuries.
I recently attended a mindfulness conference, geared toward helping youth find ways to relieve anxiety and depression. I realized, after attending this training, that mindfulness can be a powerful tool for any person at any age.
During one activity, the conference’s presenter asked us to introduce ourselves to several random fellow attendees and share two of our strengths with each other. She mentioned that our goal was to use our strengths to build a better world, and getting to know each other based on strengths was an interesting concept.
She had placed a list of strengths on our tables, and I noticed that they listed spiritual virtues: honest, kind, humble, forgiving, and many others. The Baha’i teachings emphasize the importance of focusing on—and strengthening—those spiritual virtues.
Another beautiful similarity between the Baha’i Faith and mindfulness involves acceptance. To clarify, mindfulness encourages acceptance of what happens around us in the universe, and being at peace with it. The Baha’i teachings say:
From our definition of contentment at the beginning of this article, we learned that it means not just being peacefully satisfied with what life throws at you, but it also entails being happy. In a similar vein, the Baha’i writings mention the connection between attaining virtues and our pursuit of happiness. In The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Abdu’l-Baha said:
…the body of the human world is sick. Its remedy and healing will be the oneness of the kingdom of humanity. Its life is ‘The Most Great Peace.’ Its illumination and quickening is love. Its happiness is the attainment of spiritual perfections. – p. 19.
Finally, we come to another important component of contentment: freedom from worry. I hear you; it seems nearly impossible to become worry-free.
But don’t worry (forgive me, I couldn’t resist!); you’re not alone. All of us strive to reduce the anxiety and worry that engulfs our lives.
Regardless of your hectic schedule and your truckload of worries, try to find time, even if only for a few seconds every day, to appreciate the here and now.
Take a break from your worries and find something that brings you serenity and joy. Personally, a meditative walk in nature helps me to center myself. I also find reading and reflecting on Baha’i prayers very helpful in calming my busy mind, focusing on the present, and attaining contentment. Meditation and deep breathing can also help create mindfulness and contentment.
Whatever tool works best for you, please enjoy the process of living in the moment.