After a summer of taking it slow and enjoying the simple pleasures of presence, I’ve been thrown into a storm of newness. My kids started a new school year and a few new after-school activities. There are new schedules to follow and new people to meet. In a matter of days, I shifted from a slow summer ride into autumn over-drive, and my sense of contentment has been shaken!
For parents, and for anyone else experiencing big changes right now, I’m sure you can relate. It has me thinking about the importance of maintaining a state of inner calmness or contentment when life gets busy and the path gets bumpy.
In the classic Chinese text, Tao Te Ching, philosopher Lao Tzu wrote: “If we are too busy, too preoccupied with anxiety or ambition, we will miss a thousand moments of the human experience that are our natural inheritance.”
This statement hits home because I never want to miss a moment that was meant for me. And, I know that this community of open hearts doesn’t want to miss a moment of their human experience either. But, the truth about life is that you can’t move through it without the ambition to learn and grow. The fine line that you encounter is not letting ambition overpower your sense of contentment because, when you do, you lead yourself into overwhelm.
So, how do we create a balance between ambition and contentment?
First, we need to acknowledge our training. As kids, we were taught to be ambitious and to avoid being content. I remember contentment being viewed as lacking drive, lacking lustre, just plain lacking. To be seen as thriving (not lacking), we were encouraged to go after more and to strive for more – more knowledge, more things, more success. Essentially, we were raised in a culture of wanting and needing more. According to Lao Tzu, whose words date back to the late 1800’s, we have been conditioned to “resist the simple path that might make us more content.”
Second, we need to acknowledge that doing and having more doesn’t always serve our well-being. We know from experience that our calm and present state of being can be easily disrupted by our ambitious pursuits. We need to continue learning when ambition is good and how to balance it with contentment.
In my children’s book, I use the analogy of storms to describe disruptions such as sudden uprisings of emotion that happen in our bodies. In the story, when a storm happens, I recommend tuning inward and shifting your focus (your heart compass) to calm. In other words, when you experience overwhelm or overload, consider calming ways to regulate your system and re-direct your emotions.
For those of you, like me, who are facing newness or lots of change at the moment, I’d like to offer deep listening as a way to practice presence and create a feeling of contentment.
If music speaks to your soul, I created a playlist for you to enjoy called The Journey. You can find it on Spotify.
If poetry moves you, I offer you my soul voice in my poetry. You can find some of my poems on my web site or on LinkedIn.
Finally, I offer you these words from Lao Tzu:
“Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”
Friends, I believe that being on the path to authenticity is being on, what Lao Tzu describes as, the simple path that might make us more content. The work isn’t simple but we are experiencing moments of contentment along the way. This is the journey. It is an honour to walk alongside you.
Next time, we’ll explore adornment on the path.
Let’s journey together.