Contentment is a good theme for all of us to consider. In doing so we want to learn how to be content with the circumstances around us, as well as with our own minds, internally.
Most of the agitation, negativity, and fault-finding that the mind cranks out is not so much about any big event that’s happening outside. Almost invariably, it is a lack of internal contentment. When the mind is internally unable to find contentment, externally it finds something to be excited about, upset about, agitated about, or have an opinion about. It’s usually really believable! We come up with the logic and all of the good reasons to justify our states of mind. There are plenty of good reasons if we look for them. But often times, what’s overlooked is the question, Why can’t I be content with this present moment, with this circumstance, with my mind and feelings as they are?
This is a very important investigation. It’s a fundamental basis for progress in practice. Until we learn how to direct our attention in that way, we’re almost always driven by discontent and end up being caught up in some sort of sensual fantasy or internal rant or something that, at the very least, takes us out of the present moment. The challenge is to be able to draw attention to what’s arising and investigate: How can I be content with this present moment? How can I be content with myself?
When the Buddha talked about being a refuge unto ourselves and taking Dhamma as a refuge, he didn’t mean that we take refuge in the Dhamma of discontent. Our refuge is in the Dhamma of contentment, the ability to not be pulled away from the present moment. This is absolutely essential when we’re talking about meditation—for the mind to become settled, peaceful, and still, we need to have the ability to be content with the breath or some other meditation object. In the suttas, the Buddha describes contentment as one of the characteristics of a great being or a noble one, an ariya. We learn to be content with our robes, alms food, lodging, and with our cultivation, our development of meditation.
This aspect of contentment is a fruitful area for investigation. We can experiment with it and find ways to draw our hearts closer to that quality.
This reflection by Ajahn Pasanno is from Beginning Our Day, Volume One, pp.239-240.