Friday, May 18, 2012

Learning to Be Content

I have written often about acceptance and letting go. It is a critical part of moving forward with your life. I believe that often when we learn that we have an incurable health condition, life comes to a stop. We start living in a world filled with fears of ‘what if’ and ‘what could be’ instead of living in the moment of ‘what is’. Yesterday I read an interesting article written by Leo Babauta in Zen Habits titled, “The Little Guide to Contentedness.”

Below is a portion of Leo’s article with the ending focused on ‘health’.

Learning to Be Content

contentmentIf you are in a bad place in your life, and are unhappy with some things about it (your health, relationship, yourself, bad habits, etc.), it can be a miserable thing. But here’s something interesting: it can also be a happy thing. If you can learn to develop the right mindset, you can be happy now, without changing anything else. You don’t need to wait until you’ve changed everything and made your life perfect before you’re happy.

The mindset of waiting for happiness is a never-ending cycle. Instead, learn that you can be content now, without any external changes. Here’s how to start:
  1. Take a moment to be grateful for something. What in your life is amazing? Even if everything seems to suck, there must be one good thing. Find something, and give thanks for that.
  2. Catch yourself thinking, “This sucks.” It’s amazing how often people think this thought. It might be in different words, but if you catch yourself thinking something like that, pause. Reverse the thinking. Find a way to be thankful for the situation.
  3. Find the little things that can give you simple joys. What do you need to be happy? … like taking a walk, spending time with a loved one, reading a book. These cost very little, and require very little, and can make you very happy. Focus on what gives you happiness, and focus on those rather than what you don’t have.
  4. Find the things about yourself that you’re happy with. We tend to criticize ourselves easily, but what if we turned it around and asked, “What do I do right? What am I good at? What is loveable about me?” Make a list. Start to focus on these things rather than what you’re unhappy with.
  5. Do the same with others in your life. Instead of criticizing them, ask yourself, “What is good about this person? What do I love about them?” Make a list, and focus on these things above all else.
  6. Assume that you, others, and life are perfect. You are great, and don’t need improvement. You are already perfect. Other people are also just as perfect, and don’t need improvement. You just need to appreciate them for who they are. The moment we are living in is not a stepping stone to something better — it is exactly wonderful, and we have already arrived at the perfect moment.

The Contented Life

It might be useful to look at what life would be like if you learned to be content. Look at your health, for example:

Much of our culture’s unhealthiness comes from unhappiness — eatingcontent junk food to give ourselves comfort and relieve stress, not exercising because we think we can’t (because we have a bad self-image), being glued online because we think we might miss something if we turn off the computer or iPhone. When you realize that you aren’t missing anything, and you don’t need junk food to be happy, and you are good enough to exercise, you can slowly return to health.

This is just one item in a contented life, but it gives you a picture of what might be. And the truth is, once you learn the simple trick of contentedness, it’s really a picture of what already is. You just need to let go of the fears and anxieties, and see what already is.

‘Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.’ ~Lao Tzu

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