Contentment is an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state, maybe drawn from being at ease in one’s situation, body and mind. Wikipedia.
The term happiness is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Wikipedia.
I have been asking myself lately “Alex, are you happy?” I speak in the 3rd person a lot, it helps me to get more in touch with the state I am feeling. It elicits deeper responses. My answer these last few days was…
“No I am not happy, I am content.”
Happiness has a charge, like we want to go, jump, DO many things. It is louder.
Contentment is more neutral, like we want to just BE for now and not do much. It is quieter.
I thought this is a good time to explore these different emotions because it is natural for us to seek happiness, pursue happiness when we are in pain, like the experience of sadness, grief and even anger. And there is so much going on right now that is bringing pain to many people.
And believe me, I am all for HAPPY. My business tagline is “Happiness in Motion”, it is my brand…and it will always be.
And at the same time we can’t skip the pain that life sometimes bring. The pain that breaks our heart even more open.
We pursue happiness in many ways that are not healthy, like drinking, over eating, binging on TV or seeking attention to validate ourselves. And to be clear, there is nothing wrong with enjoying a glass or two of wine, and once in while even binging on your favorite show.
It is all about the intention behind. There is a big difference between choosing to chill out and enjoy a Sunday in front of the TV with pizza and wine versus catching yourself there and not even knowing how you got there. The dark emotions come back even stronger when we try to escape.
In times of change, transition and even with all the chaos is happening now it might be hard to feel that great feeling of happiness. You might be feeling like sitting in silence more, be in solitude, reflect more…
I am in that space for sure.
I am in transition, I am experiencing grief and feeling happy in this process might be an unrealistic expectation. On the other hand contentment feels palpable, I can feel that sense of peace that comes from accepting that I am exactly where I need to be right now in my own process of evolution.
I heard the best definition of grief last week:
|“Grief is love that has nowhere to go.” – Roshi Joan Halifax|
This hit home as I grief the loss of a relationship.
When we lose a relationship, many other losses come from that.
We grief the loss of dreams you make with the person, the loss of routines we have together. It hurts, it is hard and yet, it is an important process to go through. It involves a lot of compassion, courage and even curiosity.
I understand why so many people want to escape from this, and skip this healing process. It is not happy. And this is where the contentment comes to rescue us from doing the easy thing, escape or numb the pain.
“Happiness can not be pursued, it is a state that we cultivate with daily actions. And contentment is a bridge to that state.”
When we accept contentment we accept things as they are, we accept the sadness. I say to myself, “I am sad, and that is ok.”
We surrender. We stop chasing the “happy feeling”.
Now here is the trick – surrender and acceptance does not mean we choose to stay on the couch all day feeling sorry for ourselves and not show up for life (maybe one day of that:). That can lead to helplessness and depression which is a state where we get self absorbed in our illusions of the problem, we see no way out.
Being in the sadness, accepting that as a process of healing, opening the heart, noticing the emotion without clinging or identifying is showing up. It is being real, authentic without looking for a way to bypass it, even though that is attempting many times because we are wired to move way from pain and go towards pleasure. So healing in a way goes against our survival brain.
That is why healing must be a conscious decision and we need to be aware of the distractions that can detour us from this process.
It takes work. It takes discipline. It takes desire to heal and to grow.
It sucks! And again, put a dose of contentment and it does not suck so bad. You might even find joy.
Much love, Alex.