Cultivating Contentment



It’s a constantly unstable, upended world. Change is a natural part of life. The instability of the pandemic is not about change. The ground under our feet could be thin ice, could be solid ground. It is the inability to assess this instability that is so difficult to navigate with equanimity.

What to do. How do we stay calm and content? One thing that we can consciously do to cultivate inner strength is to give of ourselves. Give back. Give something away. That may seem paradoxical, but it is probably the most reliable way to feel better about everything in your life.

We see health care workers that are heroically giving of themselves. We wonder how they can stand it. I’m very sure they go to the lengths they go precisely because they know they are part of the solution. They are saving lives. They are accompanying people as their lives are ending.

There comes a time when one must stop just giving and take care of themselves, and I honor our front line workers who have to take breaks too. Giving is only fulfilling when we have enough for ourselves.

Giving out of gratitude cultivates a deep sense of self. When we are given much in our lives we want to just give back, without getting anything in return. Ultimately, I found that isn’t possible. Whether I was volunteering for an organization, giving financially, or was just helping, the sense of connection and completion that I felt was way beyond what I gave. Always.

During the pandemic I have been blessed to have amazing opportunities to help people in my community that are struggling. More opportunities keep appearing, even as I needed to do a course correction. And always, always, I got more than I could ever give.

I think the trick is, I wasn’t trying to get anything. It’s like I know I have a debt. I have been given so much. But I can’t give in equal measure because this immense joy just flowed back to me. It is the natural way of the world. When we give, we feel connected. When we are connected, we feel a sense of well-being.

This sense of well-being is priceless. It goes beyond happiness or contentment. It is the deep understanding that we can weather the storm, even as we are tossed and turned. When generosity is intentional and structured it is very specifically NOT to get anything in return.

When you give just to give, you are filled. When you give to get, it is a business deal. Business deals are perfectly fine and very necessary, they just generally don’t fill your heart with contentment and well-being.

Try consciously being as generous as you can with your words and your actions. You will feel content beyond measure.