I was standing outside with my bare feet sunken into the soft green grass. I was pushing my kids on the swings and gazing around the back yard. I had been in a very busy bubble up until that point. Between running the household, taking care of kids, taking care of myself, yoga teacher training, and being a friend- I had felt like I only had one gear, go. My oldest had begged me to take them outside and I’ll be honest- I didn’t want to. I am learning right now in my training that often when we slide into one gear, our body and mind wants to stay there. If we are in a state of lethargy for so long our body will want to stay there, if we stay in a busy, go go go state, we will find it hard to walk away after awhile. That’s where I had been, chasing a never ending to do list. Taking the time to walk away from all of my tasks and productivity to go step out into the heat and be still for awhile didn’t feel so good. But I made myself.
Even as an experienced yogi, even as a teacher in training, even though I know better and know how important it is to be present and find stillness and how great it makes me feel- I struggle to be still and present sometimes. That’s the human in me, and yoga is a practice afterall.
I’m glad I was disciplined enough to walk away and go outside though, as I stood there- pushing them and gazing around the yard I saw their little table with paint pots and paper on it, I saw two painted cardboard boxes, my youngest’s rainboots laying on the ground (he LOVES his rainboots more than anything), I saw my garden growing in the back with my green tomatoes shining bright as they began to ripen, I felt a slight breeze blow through my hair, and I felt happy. I listened as my oldest told me all the berries she wanted to plant and all the jams she planned to make once the berries were ready and I saw my youngest beaming as he sailed through the air in his swing. My heart felt full, I felt content.
I’m willing to bet you know contentment is not an easy thing to achieve. It’s one of the reasons I love and want to teach yoga so much, it has helped me with my contentment. Before yoga I was an incredibly discontented person and still find it easy sometimes to fall into discontentment if I have gaps in my practice. We humans so easily look for the next best thing, the thing that will finally make us happy, the thing that will fix all of our problems or at least a great deal of them, we are always on the hunt for the next thing.
Then we are left to see that when we get what we thought we wanted, that thirst for more remains. It is good to want to grow, it is good to have goals, it is good to evolve, but it is also important to have contentment in the present.
I have spent the majority of my time in our current home discontent with it. It has carpet, we have natural springs that make our yard very muddy, it’s very hilly so it has very few spaces to put fun things on (think pool, trampoline, etc), I want more privacy, the list goes on. But I have found contentment in it this summer, though I had to be very intentional to do that. It is so easy to see the negatives, to see that where we are and what we have is not all that we want, so there for it is not good enough, and thus not enjoyable. When we shift our focus though to see that we can find contentment with where we are and still have happy thoughts for the future, that’s where we can find some happiness.
Is my current home the farm I want? No. Do I have the garden of my dreams right now? No. Can I walk outside naked if I wanted to without a care in the world? No, because I really don’t feel like flashing the neighbors. The house, the land, it’s not my dream, it’s not my end goal. But I am making and have made so many happy memories here. If my brain is always one, two, ten steps ahead- I’m not going to ever be content. I am not ever going to enjoy the things I have in the present, not to their true potential. When I reach the next step I’ll begin to think of the next and the next and the next.
We have to be aware of the cycle of discontentment in order to break it. We have to stop, take a deep breath, look at what surrounds us, and find the beauty in it, find the gratitude to be had. It may not be what we want, but there is something to appreciate about what we have now, something that deserves just as much attention as the thing we want to be doing a year from now. When you can stop and take in things, big or small, that we can be grateful for- we can feel lighter, happier, and make the journey to the next step easier and approach it with more joy. It’s ok to take a step off the ladder and have a seat in your garden, tuck away that to do list, take a deep breath, and see the wonderful things around you. You can like where you are and still like where you’re going. Otherwise, would we ever be content? If we are always discontented, what does that do to our quality of life, how does that affect how we interact with ourselves and others, in what ways does it hold us back? The possibilities are endless.
I know it’s hard to be content when you aren’t where you want to be, I know it is human to want to keep climbing that ladder, but try, try to take a quiet moment away from all the busyness, and find even one small thing that you can show gratitude for in your present life- all while daydreaming of what’s to come with a smile on your face. You can show gratitude for something material, for yourself, for someone else, it’s ok to be grateful for almost anything. No one is here to judge you for what you are grateful for, I just want you to find something to be grateful for- and I bet you can. Notice how being grateful, present, makes you feel? Feel a flash of peace? You felt a flash of contentment, and there is so much more where it came from if you allow it in. So allow it in. When you feel that tug inside of you telling you to put your phone down and let yourself do absolutely nothing for thirty seconds, do it, listen to it. When your kid begs you to go outside but you were about to do the laundry- go.
We must make time for rest, we must take time for stillness, for when we are still, when we are quiet- that is where we can hear the sweet sounds of life around us. Not all of it may be sweet and it may not be our favorite sounds, but it has joy none the less. Joy we can embrace and let fill our souls.