Being content with what you have comes with a sense of gratitude, with a deeper understanding of Life.
We recently met a very successful, young, corporate executive, who, in his late 20s, heads a business division for a large MNC. This is the job he always wanted and loves. Yet, he confessed, that he ‘may not be happy’: “I find something missing in Life. It is nothing material. I have everything money can buy. But I am missing inner peace – is that what you call contentment?”
I don’t find the young man’s feeling alien. I have been there in his place and I have felt like him. In my late 20s I have globetrotted continents and lived out of the finest hotels but I have yearned for being with my family. And when I found the time to spend with my family I have felt insecure that if I am not ‘visibly’ working hard at my job, I may lose it. So, contentment – the sense of fullness, completeness with what you have – may appear elusive. But, over the years, I have learnt that it is important to learn to be content. Contentment is not something that will arrive subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. It will come when you are appreciative of what is, of what you have. It comes from gratitude.
Urdu poet Nida Fazli saab (1938~2016) says it so beautifully:
“Kabhi Kisiko Mukammal Jahaan Nahi Milta,
Kahin Zamin Toh Kahin Asmaan Nahin Milta!”
When you look for things that you don’t have, you remain incomplete. When you look at what you have, including who you have in your Life, you are complete!
|Nithyanand – The Buddha|
Yesterday, I spent a transformational hour with a young man called Nithyanand, in his 20s, who is visually special (I hate to call him visually impaired). He lives in Korrukkupet (a Chennai suburb). He commutes every day to Express Avenue Mall, where he works at an exhibition tour company called “Dialogue in the Dark” (Google them – go check them out). Nithya, as he prefers being called, says he doesn’t have any problem when I ask him how he “manages with Life on a day-to-day basis”: “Sir, we work on getting oriented to spaces and with basing all our responses to the velocity of sound around us. I take bus # 18 and get to work pretty much without a hitch. When I do have to cross the road, I just wait for a good, helpful soul. The Universe always has such people around. There are so many good people in this world. Someone always comes by to help me.” There’s a joie de vivre about the way Nithya is. He is happy, content and peaceful with the way he is. Actually he truly, simply is. There is no self-pity. There’s no lament. In fact, there’s so much dignity with which he conducts himself – even you don’t feel pity for the young man. You come away inspired. Now, how many times will you come away inspired after meeting a rank stranger for barely an hour?
Much of our grief and suffering comes from lamenting over what we don’t have. This pushes us into a, often subconscious, depressive spiral out of which we rarely climb out. But always, when the focus shifts to what is, the result is magical. The reason why we struggle with making this shift from what isn’t to what is, is that the negative is always seductive. Its reasoning power is far more logical. The good in us rarely speaks. It merely states. It does not profess, it doesn’t argue, it doesn’t convince. Nett Nett, we succumb to the wily designs of scarcity__what we don’t have, what isn’t__thinking. This results in incompleteness. Whereas, with all our quirks, defects, chinks, blemishes, scars and handicaps, we are complete. There’s so much abundance in our lives. Such is the way we have been created. To recognize this complete state of ours, we need to be in a state of total acceptance, we need to be peaceful.
My learning from Nithyanand: when there is peace within, when there is acceptance of the Life you have, the focus will shift to what is. And then the wholesomeness of your Life will become clear to you! This the way, we__you and me__too, just like Nithya, can become a Buddha – and experience ‘anand’ (inner joy) ‘nithya’ (daily)!
Give up all that you don’t need, don’t have or keep pining for. Life then, most certainly, will be bliss.
You – and I – thanks to instant gratification in a facebook and SMS era, have become obsessed with wanting things now and urgently. You try to reach someone and the lines are jammed. You get irritated. You get a mobile phone but you are not satisfied. You want an iPhone. You have a roof over head, but you want to own a property. You want to buy gold because prices are up now and you want an investment backed-up. You have a child, but you won’t leave the child alone; you want the child to be doctor, engineer, class-topper, cricket player, and such, never pausing to think what the child wants to do! Wants. Wants and more Wants! This has made your Life miserable. You have become a wanting being. Than being human! Which is why you are running from pillar to post. Trying to earn more and more thinking you will be happy some day in the future. Now, if you get all that you want it is fine. But Life doesn’t work like that. So, when you don’t get all that you want, you become desperate; you sulk, brood, and plunge your Life into an abyss of worries. Then you attend therapeutic programs and read spiritual books to ‘cleanse’ yourself. The feeling of oneness with the Universe lasts only as long as the programs do. Soon you have resumed the wanting in you and have lost yourself again.
Know that you will always get what you need and never always what you want! If you have all that you need, just be happy with it. And stop pining for what you don’t have. Only then will you be in bliss!
Every day is a new chance to learn to be content with the Life that you have.
Contentment, you are made to believe, is important to survive this lifetime. Those who propound this theory have a valid justification for it. There’s so much that happens in Life that does not meet your expectation. In fact, you end up getting so much in Life, from Life, that you don’t want. A lot of what happens in Life also causes suffering – especially when you resist what’s happening to you! So, the wise among us, those who have seen more of Life, advocate learning to be content. Which is to learn to live with what is. Than crave for something which is not!
But to be content, though it is simple to understand, is not easy to practice. The mind will always encourage or seduce you to pine for what is not. So, contentment simply comes from disciplining the mind. It comes from acceptance and from a deep understanding of what Life is all about.
Osho, the Master, explains it thus: “To be contented means: don’t expect anything from life, just live it moment to moment, and whatsoever it gives is just fantastic. Life goes on pouring infinite treasures on us. And because of this mind asking for more, we remain blind to those treasures. Once this constant noise for more stops, then this chirping of the bird is enough. There is nothing in it and all in it.”
When you start your journey seeking contentment you will first struggle with it. You will fall. But the key is to get up, dust yourself and keep walking. When you experience contentment for the first time it will blow you away. You will want more it. Then nothing in Life will affect you anymore – you will not be swayed by pleasure and you will not be held hostage by pain. All you will want is for that “feeling” of contentment to be perpetual. And you will do whatever it takes to continue to experience it. This is the way to bliss – when the past does not matter, when the future is irrelevant. What matters is that you are here, now, happy and content, with what is!
When you learn to focus only on what you have, and not dwell on what you don’t have, you will find yourself soaked in inner peace. This understanding is the simplest way to attaining bliss.
Do this little exercise for yourself on your commute to work today. Make a list of all that you have. Flip the page and make a list of all that you don’t have. Spend a minute reviewing each list. Surely, the first “what you have” list filled you with joy and gratitude. And the second “what you don’t have” list triggered a yearning, an anxiety, a concern for having to still working on making that list a reality. The truth is, because you spend a lot of your time, subconsciously, on the second list, more often than not, the emotions connected with that list magnify, and manifest as anger, depression and/or restlessness. You simply are under the spell of that list – completely oblivious of what you have. Happiness and contentment are possible only when you celebrate what is. Neither happiness nor contentment can ever be experienced over what isn’t there. This is an irrefutable law of Life.
Obviously, goals, aspirations and ambitions, come from the second list. And without those, there can be no progress. So the import here is not to tell you to be less ambitious or aggressive. Please stay doggedly on the path of your ambition – but don’t sacrifice what you have on the altar of your aspirations. Love and keep celebrating what is, even as you pursue what you want! This you can do only when you learn to live in the moment. And you can live in the moment by accepting and wanting what is, than by wishing that what isn’t were actually there.
On the futility of merely wishing, here’s a story that Osho, the Master used to say!
Bryant, an Irishman, was out fishing. And he caught a fish that spoke to him! The fish said that it was actually an elf that could grant Bryant three wishes if he let it live. So, Bryant threw the fish back into the river and rushed home. He shared this piece of good news with his wife and the two of them decided to go to the market in town to look for three things they could “wish” for. The wife decided to open a can of beans so she could make them dinner. The can opener, for whatever reason, was not to be found. And the lady “wished” she had a can opener so she could get done with dinner faster. Bingo! A can opener arrived in her hand. As Bryant looked on, angrily, his wife felt sorry having wasted a “wish” on a stupid can opener. Bryant was vocal: “Why did you wish for such a stupid thing? I wish the can opener was up your ass!” Bingo! Again! Sure enough, that’s where the can opener ended up being. And you can imagine what the couple would have done next – they had to use up the third wish to get the can opener out of where it was!
So, wish, dream, pursue, by all means. But live with and love what is. Remember: being in the moment that “is” always far more valuable, enriching, and productive than trying to wish for something that “isn’t”!
Sometimes, it is best not to get what you want in Life. Because when you review the reasons why you did not get what you wanted, you will really find what is truly ordained for you.
Life is inscrutable. The path you choose may not always be available to you. But a closed door or a dead end will, ALWAYS, often miraculously, open up a whole new path for you. You may trudge on it reluctantly to arrive at an unknown place, only to discover that you really, truly belong there!
This is so bizarre at one level. You are encouraged to set a Vision for yourself, have goals and diligently pursue them. Yet you are now being told that despite what you have planned, Life will take you on its own course! Well, it may seem incredible, but it is the way it is. At another level, it is so simple and easy. You can only make a Life out of what happens to you __ irrespective of what you planned or wanted. That’s really the only way to bliss!
16-and-a-half years ago, in 1996, after three successive disastrous employment stints, I presented myself in the office of a high-profile recruiter in Chennai. He subsequently built his company up well and sold it recently to a global recruitment firm. But back then, the recruiter was a big name, and his firm was still a start-up. I had known him through my years as a business journalist. So, I sought his help in getting me a good, well-paying, purposeful corporate job. He spent three hours speaking with me and assured me of a quick turnaround. Post that meeting, over the next three months, I must have called him a few dozen times. Email was not so big then. So, one had to follow up only via phone. He neither answered my calls nor he did return even one of them. It was bizarre. I remember agonizing then: at least he could tell me why he was not successful in pushing my case with employers?
Frustrated, and perhaps also driven by the fact that I had been ‘rejected’, I resolved that I should perhaps go on to be an employer. And not be an employee anymore. One fine day, in August 1996, I went ahead and set up a tiny consulting Firm with my wife! We were moderately successful financially in our early years. But by the end of our first decade in business, we were staring at a big, dark, black hole of accumulated losses and an unimaginable pile of debt. Eventually, we went bankrupt and, in many ways, continue to be in that state.
Initially, I hated where we had ended up finding ourselves: presiding over the debris of a debt-laden, problem-ridden firm. I used to hate that feeling__of guilt, ignominy, hopelessness, fear and resentment__ which would gnaw at me from within in each waking moment. But now, after all these years, when I look back, I find that without the rejection I faced in the job market, I may not have embraced entrepreneurship and without having failed at entrepreneurship, I may never have understood what Life is, what intelligent living is and understood what contentment is as I do now!
When I introspect, I am grateful for the experiences I have been through that have transformed me from being an angry, foul-mouthed, obsessive, possessive, egotist to being a simple, accepting, mindful voyager through Life. My learnings from the path that I did not choose, but which unfolded itself in front of me as I walked, have brought me to, I earnestly believe, my Life’s purpose: to awaken people to the right way of thinking, living, working and winning! I am reminded of what John Bunyan, a 17thCentury English writer and preacher, had to say: “Although I have been through all that I have, I do not regret the many hardships I met, because it was they who brought me to the place I wished to reach.”
So celebrate Life’s inscrutability. Don’t grieve, don’t mourn over what you wanted and did not get. Keep walking, knowing that the path will always unfold, and always take you to where you must eventually arrive and truly belong!