I carefully stepped from rock to rock playing a game of connect the dots. As I made it to the large boulder on the edge of the rushing stream, I placed my hand on the warm surface and instantly felt drawn in. I climbed on top, tucked my legs underneath me, and pulled up my feet to unlace my shoes. I set my shoes behind me, tucked my socks in the foot hole, and then extended my feet toward the roaring white water that collided with the rocks beneath it. As I placed my feet in the ice-cold water, I was forced to draw in a deep breath. It’s like the chilled water was running through my veins. I instantly felt…more alive. I noticed the warmth from the rock beneath me, the freezing water running over my feet, and I lifted my eyes to gaze at its source. A massive waterfall was just up and to the left. What a sight! The cascading water fell with such freedom as it was released from its icy form of the season past. I took it all in and closed my eyes to listen. The sound of the water, the breeze in the trees, the excitement of discovery from my children behind me…such delightful sounds to fill my heart. I felt the sun on my face, and it was almost like time stood still; the concerns of yesterday and the responsibilities of tomorrow were washed away down the stream. I felt free at that moment. Completely content.
I had always wondered what it'd be like to be content. I’d watch others who seemed to be content and think, “Gosh, wouldn’t that be nice? To love life just as is…to feel that kind of joy and satisfaction." It would make me wonder what was wrong with me…why I couldn’t relate or feel that way too. I pondered whether it was possible to be a dreamer, doer, and completely content at any given moment.
I figured there must be some secret or something I didn’t know. What was I doing wrong? How could I find contentment along the way? For YEARS I strived to be happy. Was it possible for me to happily achieve AND enjoy the ride? I wasn't sure, but it seemed a worthy pursuit.
I decided to start with a practice that I now often share with clients and friends. I believe it was this strategy that uncovered my ability to find contentment. It taught me how to live more present. It taught me how to see contentment in the middle of chaos. It helped me to recognize it in moments throughout the day.
I first looked up the word “contentment.”
Contentment: a state of happiness and satisfaction. The synonyms of contentment really got me… satisfaction, fulfillment; happiness, pleasure, cheerfulness, gladness, gratification; ease, comfort, restfulness, well-being, peace, equanimity, serenity, tranquility, placidity.
Wow! At the time I found myself desperately needing a whole lot more of all of those words. That’s when I embarked on my journey; the journey of finding contentment. I knew contentment must have dwelling places, but I wasn't sure I had ever lived there. I decided to hunt it down, find its address and see if I could move in.
I started a journal and wrote contentment synonyms at the top of the page. I set a reminder on my phone to pause midday, stop my habit of always doing and just allow myself to be as present as possible. I’d ask myself, “When have you felt any of the above words in the last 24 hours?” At first, I’d document fleeting moments like sitting in the car waiting to pick up a kiddo from school with the sun on my face or the stillness and quiet of the car when the kids piled out, and I was the last to open my door. I'd wait for a second or two (or thirty) just to enjoy the captivated quiet.
I found the more days where I practiced hunting for these moments, it set up an inner GPS that seemed to be drawn toward moments, places, and states that created more of it! I'd stay in the car longer on purpose and just breathe. I’d go outside in the middle of summer and sit in a chair allowing the sun to hit my legs. I’d pause in the hallway, listen to my son play in his room, and giggle at his narrative. The more I hunted contentment down, the more I found it. It wasn't that it was hiding or unavailable to me, I just wasn't allowing it in! I was too busy to stop and well, smell the roses!
I’ve resolved that I can be the dreamer, the doer, and totally content at this moment. Contentment’s address is right next door, but you've got to get brave to go knock on it, crawl across some rocks, and stick your feet in icy-cold water. You've got to have the courage to sit, to be, to listen, and to soak it in. The more you seek it, the more you find it.