Being content is an art form. Most people only get glimpses of what it’s like without ever really experiencing it. This is because people confuse happiness with contentedness, and they tend to chase happiness as if it were a drug.
I will define these words as I mean them, as to avoid confusion. Happiness is a temporary feeling that comes and goes. It is experienced in large upswings, usually in direct response to something good happening. This previously mentioned good thing causes one to experience happiness, and once it is gone, or the excitement over it has subsided, the experience of happiness has ended and a lower state follows.
Contentedness is a way of living. It is a mindset in which total satisfaction is experienced at all moments. In a way, you could call it a more permanent form of happiness, although it is more closely related to a non-dual state than a happy one. This is because happiness is experienced in direct relationship to sadness, while contentedness on the other hand, is non-fluctuating, and can potentially be experienced for months, years, or even lifetimes.
Whatever one may conclude about enlightenment, I’m sure we can all agree that constant contentment is a characteristic of the experience. With this said, if you believe yourself to be enlightened, but things in the material world can still get you down or affect your state, then clearly you have not transcended the material world, and are not yet enlightened. This is shown adequately in this quote from the timeless Bhagavad Gita ;
“A person who neither rejoices upon achieving something pleasant nor laments upon obtaining something unpleasant, who is self-intelligent, unbewildered, and who knows the science of God, is to be understood as already situated in Transcendence. Such a liberated person is not attracted to material sense pleasure or external objects but is always in trance, enjoying the pleasure within. In this way the self-realized person enjoys unlimited happiness, for he concentrates on the Supreme.” Chapter 5, verses 20, and 21.
Contentment is made manifest once one has realized that everything in their life is exactly as it should be, and nothing more is needed. Once fully situated in contentment, the same reaction should be felt regardless of what is going on in the outside world around you, because the feeling is always inside you.
This is precisely the reason why there are people living in mansions who are extremely depressed, as well as people in caves in the Himalayas with no material possessions, who only eat, sleep, and meditate, and are in a constant state of spiritual bliss.
Just like the quote “wherever you go, there you are”, we see that whatever state you carry around with you will be experienced anywhere you go. If you are depressed, you can be participating in an activity that is considered universally fun, and still have the same state of depression while doing it. On the other hand, if you are content, you can be sitting in a plane that is about to crash, and retain your content state as it goes down.
Like enlightenment, contentment comes and goes at first. It starts with a short experience of it, followed by a feeling of loss when it is over. This may even lead one to fall into the same traps as before, by trying to acquire some material thing to retrieve back this blissful state, but this is a way of experiencing only the temporary happiness, and will only lead to contentment as much as grabbing at empty space will.
When it finally sticks for good, this is heaven on earth.
If you appreciate all you have and all you are right now at this moment, and do not want or need even one more thing…
and if you can take that feeling with you through all time and space…
Then eternal bliss is yours for the taking.
It is your birthright to be content, and as soon as you use your intention to dedicate yourself to the well being of yourself and others, as well as to get in touch with this innate state of being, it will effortlessly present you with all the joy and glory imaginable.