Finding contentment from the inside out

“Contentment … is the choice to end our war with reality.” ~Rolf Gates and Katrina Kenison

The first thing I do each morning—before I even get out of bed—is to read my daily meditation from Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga (Amazon Affiliate link). This morning began a discussion of the second niyama (or restraint) of yoga called santosa, which is most often translated as contentment. The statement above from the opening of today’s reading really caught my attention. “Contentment … is the choice to end our war with reality.”

I have never though of it this way, but it made clear intuitive sense to me the moment I read it. I would never have described myself as being at war with reality before I read this line. While still pondering the reading, I made my way to the computer only to have an article from Yoganonymous called The 21 Day ‘No Complaining’ Challenge | Stop Arguing with Reality! by Kurt Johnsen waiting for me in my RSS reader. Johnsen argues (rather persuasively) that every time we complain about something, we are arguing with reality. By that measure, I am at indeed very much at war with reality.

I don’t think of myself as a negative person, but the more I learn to observe myself, the more I am realizing how much I do complain. There are many reasons why I do complain. Often it’s a handy way of connecting with others via small talk (which I really hate to do). There’s nothing like the bonding with others that comes from shared complaints (traffic, weather, politics) to smooth social contact.

However, the bigger belief that gets in my way comes from my upbringing. In my family of origin, the more someone could be seen to suffer, the more attention they received and the more they tended to be lauded for their ability to hold up under their suffering. Anyone whose life was seen to be going well was considered shallow and worthy of contempt. Naturally, this makes me a bit inclined to focus more on what’s going wrong in my life than on what’s going well. I became aware of this familial pattern and its effect on my some years ago, and I’ve grown to be better at not following that pattern over time, but in moments of stress, I still tend to default back to childhood patterns.

The idea that all of that complaining, regardless of why I’m doing, is actually me being at war with reality is a powerful re-framing. I have such a strong desire for contentment in my life, but I’ve tended to find that to be a very elusive state of being. It is powerful to realize that all that is needed is for me to choose to end my war with reality to find it. I’m not saying that ending the war with reality will be easy. In fact, I suspect that this is one of those tasks that will take a lifetime to even begin to master, but it is very powerful to realize that the ability to find contentment is all in my hands. It’s up to me to choose.

This morning’s meditation ends with the following:

“Instead of seeking contentment from the outside in, we find contentment from the inside out. The paradigm shift comes when we view all events as opportunities to grow, to encounter our own magnificence. When we view things in this light, there are no good events or bad events, only moments in which to shine.”

A paradigm shift this big doesn’t happen overnight, but I’m looking forward to finding contentment from the inside out as I choose to stop the war with reality.

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