Do you ever feel trapped and stuck in a cycle of things that on the surface appear to be providing happiness and contentment, but that all the while, deep down, there is an unmet need that is just aching to be satisfied? I suspect everybody has something that they feel would make them more happy and more content.
Contentment delves deeper than mere happiness and satisfaction, it gets right down to the core of who you are and what satisfies your inner hunger. Contentment implies that, on balance, you are on the positive side of what you are experiencing. It infers, there is a ‘better than’ aspect to your life and that there is a positive to what you are doing. The negative side of what you are feeling (there may be 1/3 element) could actually be neutrality and not negativity, but that is for a later discussion.
There has been times when I have spoken to people about the discontented nature of things in their life, I suspect we all have something that doesn’t feel right, a feeling that can’t be satisfied. A feeling that change need to happen and that it feels like a grasping for something ‘else’. What I found, in recent times, is that If you can sit with the experience of discontentment and work out what that unsettled hunger may point to, you can then start to make positive changes in your life. You don’t have to accept the unacceptable.
Contentment can, over time, become a thought process rather than a gut feeling. Can cease to be an emotional response to experience and become a cognitive reaction to a certain set of stimuli. Contentment flips from the positive side of what is being experienced to sterile thoughts of feelings and not the direct feelings them self.
I have realised, having spoken to many people that in order for us to become more satisfied and as a result more content there needs to be re-connection to ALL of our thought processes. Good, bad and indifferent. The ‘Head’ (logical centre) and the the ‘Heart’ (emotional centre) need to work in harmony. We are always in danger of is painting an emotional landscape with only a few colours, a bit like painting a Rembrandt with only hues of black and white.
I realise that in order for anyone to be whole and content, awareness of fear and opening up the ‘narrative’ underneath that, using the relevant emotional skills and tools can develop contentment, and indeed happiness.
It is through mindfulness, moreover meditation and insight reflection, that we can start to become aware of the gap between our head responses and our heart responses. In seeing the distance between the two and the disconnectedness we may be feeling, we can be able to start to recognise what we are feeling about the situation and what we are thinking about it. The technique of labelling (Mental Noting) has formed a backbone to my own, and many others personal meditation practice.
In brief, labelling is the technique of placing upon an emotion or sensation a word that defines what it means to you in that moment. The idea is that you sit in quiet meditation and whatever emotion or feeling crops up you give it a descriptor. It is not a definition or a judgement, it is a brief, one word, description of the feeling. There is no analysis involved you simply and quite quickly give it a name e.g. sadness, frustration, joy. After you have given it a name you let it go and repeat the process of sitting in the moment. What may happen is the feeling etc. may come up again, you simply repeat the process of labelling and let it go, coming back to your anchor (often the breath). The idea is to capture the moment of the experience, see it and then set it aside and move on. Behind the concept of labelling is the idea that there is forward motion of experience and that any experience is impermanent and indeed may change at any stage. It arises, enters awareness and then passes.
By labelling, in this case the experience of contentment, I was able to sit with the physical feeling that was being felt but I was also able to see how I was linked to it and what I thought I was experiencing. What I noticed was that there was often a divide between the head and the heart and in seeing this I was given the chance to change my perspective of both aspects of my experience. In doing this I was in a position to try and draw them closer together. To wiggle the two opposing, and often stubborn elements nearer to the centre and a state of equilibrium.
Can the process of labelling completely eradicate any gap between thought and physical emotion? No. However, t can start to slowly resolve some underlying issues of discontent, and as a result, balance can be found. What has been noted is that what I think and what is “really” real has shifted and I have started to see the world with open and honest eyes. Contentment is no longer an illusory state, it is a factual, physical and real state of being and one I know can be honestly felt in my mind and body and in a unified way.
The phrase, “what you see is what you get “, is often bandied around but I can honestly say that through noting, journaling and mindful awareness it is possible to be content with everything that is thrown at you, warts and all.