What is Contentment and Why You Need to be Emotionally Messy

By BijaB

Trying to be happy all the time is not the answer. You can't be emotionally perfect. There is no such thing.

Contentment is your natural state of emotional balance. It comes from negotiating with the ever changing nature of your emotions. You will not be happy all of the time, and that’s ok.

Contentment is a choice you can make. If you give yourself permission to be content, you are well on your way.

First, use your emotional antenna to sense what makes you comfortable or uncomfortable, happy or unhappy. At any time, ask yourself some simple questions:

— Am I feeling comfortable or uncomfortable?

— Am I feeling happy or unhappy?

— If I feel unhappy, I am unhappy because _____. 

— What am I allowing that makes me feel unhappy?

— Then, ask yourself, "What steps can I take?"

You don't have to stay unhappy or miserable, ever. Move toward your own state of contentment. Don't wait for someone to give happiness to you. As a friend of mine once said, "Only you can bring happiness to yourself. Everyone else is probably busy anyway."

Since the secret of contentment lies within you, you can find a way to liberate it.

Contentment doesn't come from the immediate satisfaction of a specific desire, but arises instead when you are not anxious about the present, when you don't feel pangs about the past, and when you have no worries about the future. Once you develop a strong enough sense of contentment, the external circumstances of your life don't matter. You are still content from within yourself.

Trying to be happy all the time is not the answer. You can't be emotionally perfect. There is no such thing. Emotional perfectionism is the biggest obstacle between you and your ability to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Worrying about being perfect only makes you emotionally limited. It doesn't make you happy. It's okay to get messy. You get messy when you deal with your emotions, anyway. So, why not learn to play in the mess?

You need to be emotionally messy — confused, distracted, anxious, depressed, melancholy, sad — in order to find out who you are, why you are here, and what you're supposed to do. If you accept your untidy, imperfect emotions, you'll find they have tremendous value.

Deepening Contentment

Here's a yogic technique for increasing and developing positive emotional states — friendliness, compassion, happiness, steadiness, and strength. Attitudes like these are curative. What makes them powerful is using them creatively. In this exercise, you learn to consciously intend to create more positive attitudes, desires, and expansive states by aiming your consciousness toward a certain goal.

  • First, decide on a specific attitude you wish to cultivate. Let's say the attitude is happiness.
  • Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Settle your mind by directing your attention within. Simply lengthen the flow of your breath for a few minutes. Then, sit quietly with your eyes closed and feel the silence.
  • As you do so, bring your attention to your heart; at the same time put your awareness on to the attitude and give it the whole of your attention. Say the word or intention inside yourself mentally (e.g.,happiness), and release your intention into the field of your consciousness. It's like blowing the seeds off a dandelion — you say the intention inside, then let it go. Next, bring your awareness back to your self. Stay there in silence for a few moments.
  • Release your intention again from your heart, and bring your awareness back to your self. Be there silently. (This almost happens simultaneously.)
  • Repeat this procedure with one intention at least two to four times, always coming back to your self. Then, try it with another intention or word (e.g., friendliness or compassion).
  • If you notice any attachment to the outcome of your intention, don't hold on, let it go.

Do this exercise anytime, anywhere, even for a few seconds. Practice it regularly, taking one thought or idea at a time, and automatically your awareness will shift. You'll feel lighter, happier.

Learn more in my book, "Emotional Yoga: How the Body Can Heal the Mind".

(Photo: Painting by Milton Resnick, Untitled, 1949)

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