6 steps to contentment — your “natural wealth”

Once, when I was a young fellow of 12 or 13, my parents took me on a holiday to a beautiful region of England called the Norfolk Broads. Knowing how much I loved boats, they had rented a houseboat for a week on the River Bure, near the small village of Horning.

I was ecstatic. A small rowing boat was provided with the houseboat, and Dad said I could have it. Each morning, as soon as I woke up — long before my parents opened their eyes — I climbed into the boat and went for a row on the river.

I had an exciting book by an author named Stanley Weyman, and liked to go to a quiet, secluded spot where I could read some more pages.

If there is such a thing as contentment, this was it, sitting in my little boat, nose in my book, surrounded by water, trees, birds, and peace. Only when I got hungry did I put my book away and row back to the houseboat.

6 steps to contentment

Contentment does exist, of course. It is one of the primary characteristics of our own true nature. It is one of the greatest blessings that life has to offer. But like anything truly worthwhile, it has a price.

1. Be willing to forgive.

How can we be content if we carry frozen in our heart — like an iceberg in the Arctic — the raw pain of past injustice? How can we be contented if we think someone, or something is doing is wrong? It is impossible.

The answer is simple. All you really have to do is forgive yourself, and you will automatically forgive everyone and everything else.

How can we forgive ourselves? How can we forgive the shame and fear that have inevitably accrued in our lives?

I find the key is to be still, and realize in the presence of my own eternal being what is forever perfect, timeless, and free. It has never sinned, and is without shame. What does it have to be ashamed about? What is there to forgive? Nothing.

 2. Don’t be hostage to your goals.

We need goals in life, of course. We need dreams, and we need to follow our dreams. But I find there is a curious paradox here – a kind of creative tension — because we cannot be hostage to our dreams.

For example, this blog is important to me. It’s my “baby.” I enjoy it, and I want it to succeed, and grow, and be a blessing to many people, hopefully, as well as to my wife JoAnn and me.

But something else is more important — being true to my own being, forever untroubled and unchanged by anything that happens in my life or anywhere else.

 3. Don’t let thoughts rule

Thinking is essential, of course. But I know I sometimes think too much. Don’t be afraid to give your mind a rest from time to time.

Idle or destructive thoughts cloud the blessing of contentment that is always with us, wanting to be allowed access to our heart.

As Socrates, that great and wise man once said: “Contentment is natural wealth, luxury is artificial poverty.”

 4. Give your gift

What is the unique gift you bring to this world? Think about this. See if you can describe your gift in a single sentence. We are not just talking about a particular role or activity here, though that’s included, but the unique spirit, or essence that is yours.

Knowing what your gift is and giving it freely, consistently and with love is a sure path to contentment.

5. Listen to your own inner wisdom.

 Contentment and wisdom go arm in arm. Even as I write these words a mental image comes to my mind of a pair of young lovers strolling blissfully together in a sunlit garden.

If you would know more contentment in your life, be still, and listen to that quiet voice of wisdom speaking to you from the depths of your being.

6. Love your own being.

Love your own limitless, unconquerable Self with all the passion that is in you. For it is the very source of the contentment and happiness that is your birthright and your “natural wealth.”

A warm welcome once again to new subscribers and of course “old” subscribers. May you experience a little joy and peace and encouragement as you visit this blog. Incidentally, I plan to start a newsletter in the next week or two to nurture this “community.”

What do you think about contentment? Please write and share your thoughts or experiences, won’t you?

Picture credit:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2439/4029079644_bc156464c8.jpg

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Uzma November 1, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I feel I am still looking for my gift to share and hence not content. Yes, I do know joy though. When I hear the Indian drums beat, when I see it rain , when the wind blows. Sheer beauty of nature makes me ecstatic.. The gift of being able to give will make me content. I think it is to write, to see beauty, to seek wisdom..

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Christopher Foster November 1, 2010 at 6:38 pm

I am so delighted to hear from you again Uzma and send you my love across the miles. The examples you give of things that give you joy are so moving. I am there listening to the Indian drums with you, watching the rain with you, feeling the warm Indian air on my cheeks with you.

I think giving our gift is a process that unfolds gradually and according to its own timetable, like a flower gradually opening its petals to the sun. Love and blessings to you. Chris

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Phil Malmstrom November 2, 2010 at 6:54 am

Good morning.

Just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you for this post. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog since I found it a month or so ago, and look to your postings for inspiration when working on my daily “Emails to God” on my blog. I can honestly say that for the most part, I’m reasonably content in my life however we all fall into the traps you’ve outlined now and again. In my case, my biggest issues usually come from “3. Don’t let thoughts rule”. I tend to over-think things a great deal, and in many cases miss the underlying benefit of situations. I am working on it though… :-)

Take care, and thanks again for a great article!

Phil Malmstrom (Phather Phil)
Phil Malmstrom recently posted..I’m Sorry- and Thank You

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Christopher Foster November 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Good day to you too Phil. And thank you so much for your comment. You and me both brother, as far as ‘overthinking’ is concerned.

But perhaps this is why we’re here. To come to a place where we are more and more aware of our busy thoughts when they arise, even as we also realize with a heart-stopping joy, “My goodness, so what?”

“Yes, there’s a lot of mental activity is going on, but it doesn’t change who I truly am one bit.”

Look forward to visiting your blog Phil, it sounds great.

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Maria Frid November 2, 2010 at 11:10 am

I have heard people say, ‘If you are content than there isn’t the fire in the belly to be ambitious or creative’. I say, it is when I am content that I do my best work. When I am relaxed and full is when I am itchy to create and anxious to see what would be born. It is when I am the happiest working; knowing something of value will come.

I, like you, think too many dreams can sidetrack one. Like the song by Neil Young says “If you follow every dream, you might get lost”. I think focusing your dream in realistic terms is very useful.

Thank you Chris, as always, well said!

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Christopher Foster November 2, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Great comment Maria. Perhaps there are two ways to think of contentment. If it’s just relaxing into a happy, vague stupor of course it’s true there’s not likely to be much creative juice flowing.

But to me true contentment is a very dynamic experience. It’s being at peace with life, and with oneself, assured of my own wholeness and filled with excitement about the gift I came to bring to the world.

I think this is how it was for Michelangelo. My guess, and I could be wrong, is that it was because he was whole, and content, at peace with himself and wide open to the presence of Eternal Love that he was able to produce the masterpieces he did.

Thanks Maria. Such a pleasure to hear from you again.

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Uzma November 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Hi Chris. Thank you for your kind words. Glad to know that you are enjoying the Indian drums, our rain and the wind :)
Also, very grateful for your reminder that our gift gradually reveals itself. Thank u for that.
Uzma recently posted..Happiness is here on seeking purpose and finding peace

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Christopher Foster November 2, 2010 at 2:13 pm

Thank you Uzma. I’m so happy for the connection with you. Take care.

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Clearly Composed November 2, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Visiting your posts is like sitting on the front porch listening to a good friend. Thanks for the way you make living and contentment so lovely, Christopher. May you have many more boat moments to come. :)
Clearly Composed recently posted.. Grace in Action Dare- The Thank You Flower

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Christopher Foster November 3, 2010 at 9:22 am

Thank you Emma. A privilege to share life’s journey with you. I’m thankful both for your words and for the connection that I feel with you. Just detoured over to your latest post and want to congratulate you. Such a fine message. I’ll be back to leave a comment.

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The Exception November 3, 2010 at 1:07 pm

One of the tips I have fully embraced, and really just accepted, is that I have to give myself all that I give to others (especially my daughter) so freely… compassion, forgiveness, grace… love. It is easy to give these things to another but when I found the courage to start giving them to myself… contentment and peace followed.
Beautiful post and I love the row boat and the river and the book…

(I found you via Lori on Jane Be Nimble)

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Christopher Foster November 3, 2010 at 3:19 pm

This is so cool. Great comment. Sometimes the last person we think of honoring and respecting and forgiving is …as you say …ourself. Just having compassion and gratitude and respect for our own physical body, for example, no matter its shape or its quirks and vulnerabilities — what a difference it makes both to our body and to us. It may have been starving for some genuine enfoldment and thanks for all its extraordinary efforts to be a good servant and friend to us.

So glad you stopped by. Be well and take care.

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Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife) November 3, 2010 at 1:17 pm

Hi Chris,

I feel more content just reading your post. You have gotten right to the core of it. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
Gail Brenner (AFlourishingLife) recently posted..How to Follow Your Heart

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Christopher Foster November 3, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Thank you Gail, my friend. A pleasure to be in service with you. I still think that pic of you on the beach is just so great. I want you to know that when a tiny tinge of envy came up in me — coz I do love the ocean and am so FAR away from it — I didn’t succumb to such an unworthy emotion. I thought to myself, “Good on yer Gail. I’m with you, just not in person.”

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Keith November 4, 2010 at 5:41 am

Hello Christopher,

I love the way you write. You have a gift of sharing the profound, but in a way that is kind, “soft”, easy to understand and apply to one’s life. I hope my writing evolves to that level.

This post is really awesome. All of the six steps are very important but there are a couple that you shared that get me excited. That’s because most people, when discussing such topics as you have here, never mention things like “Don’t be hostage to your goals” or “Don’t let thoughts rule”! You have really nailed two excellent points. Understand, I am all about goals and I am into the “thoughts are things-what you focus on grows-you are what you think” stuff in a big way, as you can see from my blog. However, if I have learned anything in life it is that there is balance in everything. You show that point well with these two steps. Have goals, but if you become enslaved by them you’re missing what goals are all about. Think, but do not become distracted or bound by your thoughts. Your heart/spirit must play a role too.

Great post Christopher!
Keith recently posted..Love!

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Christopher Foster November 4, 2010 at 9:24 am

Thankyou for these most interesting thoughts Keith. It’s a pleasure to be in conversation with you. Personally, I think balance is one of the central characteristics of the “universe” of which we are a part. I put universe in quotes becoz obviously I don’t have a clue what the “universe” really is but it’s a way to describe something.

I think we are happiest when our life — which obviously includes our thoughts and our goals — is in harmony with the eternal principle of balance. The “middle way,” as it is sometimes put. Isn’t it remarkable that though the universe seems impossibly vast we see this balance at work in very small areas — the way a cut finger heals or a tree or a flower grows.

All the very best Keith.

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jonathan figaro November 5, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I think we must rule thought if we want to achieve greatness. Our mind can be either our worst enemy or our best friend. I think it’s best to influence ourselves with optimistic imagery, positive affirmations and a sense of purpose if we are to rise to the occasion.
jonathan figaro recently posted..Can You Be A Leader

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Christopher Foster November 5, 2010 at 2:26 pm

So true Jonathan. Our worst enemy or our best friend. I love what you say here. There’s a choice I think, and it’s never too late to make the right choice — to “rise to the occasion” as you put it. This surely includes taking a really good look at our thoughts, and not taking it for granted that because they are ‘my’ thoughts they must be true and worthwhile.

They may be true and worthwhile but we’ve all gone thru a lot of human conditioning and — they may not be true at all. They may destroy us if we succumb to them. This ‘mind’ of ours is potentially a wonderful friend, as you say, but is also very subtle — in stillness, I find, the answer comes.

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HappinessandWisdom November 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Thanks for this beautifully written post. We think gratitude is a key part of contentment. A focus on what is good in our lives makes us realize how good we have it! With that gratitude focus, While we can strive for more that will make us happy, we can be content in the present.
HappinessandWisdom recently posted..Exercise- Endorphins and Happiness

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Christopher Foster November 7, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Oh yes indeed. Wonderful point. Thanks. Gratitude is so key isn’t it, I’m reminded of a quote of G.K. Chesterton: “I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”

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Timaree March 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

I just found your blog and am reading some of the posts. I’ve signed up for your notifications. Looking forward to reading more. Lately I feel like a dried out sponge and am looking for nourishment like this post to regain that contentment I have felt at times.
Timaree recently posted..The Sun is Out Again!

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Christopher Foster March 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Hi Timaree. Thanks so much for your comment and also for signing up. Welcome to “the neighborhood.”

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Sh September 17, 2011 at 11:29 am

I always have a list things I wanted. For a brief moment I felt that my list is completed and that moment is priceless. Its not because I have got everything in my list but because I’m desire-less. It is a truly amazing feeling. As usual mind goes on wondering what I want but the true consciousness is fully aware and content with what it is. At that moment you can send gratitude to the universe for the present moment. Thank you thank you thank you.

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Christopher Foster September 18, 2011 at 10:15 am

Shashru, thank you for writing. You underline such a great secret. When we stop obsessing with our desires, and take a moment to be thankful simply for what is — we actually open the door of our heart to true abundance. Thanks again for stopping by.

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