THE SECRET TO SPIRITUAL CONTENTMENT
©Norman W Wilson, PhD
In my two previous talks about spiritual contentment I laid the ground work for a shift that is the generally accepted paradigm. To be spiritual, you must first love yourself. Spirituality is a personal experience, and third you have to be open to the potentiality of spiritual contentment. Spiritual contentment, like happiness, is not something you arrive at someday. Its presence is always a potentiality. Doing things that allow for its existence is easy. For example, do you have someone you haven't talked to in quite a while? If so, call them. It's okay to say, "I was thinking about you and wondered how you were." Pretense is not required. Listen to what that person says. Don't have a big story you can't wait to blurt out. Such an act announces you want to brag about something or that you had a juicy piece of gossip to spread. Do you remember the child's game of "Pass it on?" Well, don't. If you do, you are telling that person you are not sincere about the reason you called them. Remember you are calling to find out how your friend or relative is. If calling is not your thing, write a note and mail it. Send an e-mail. Enjoy the effort of making the contact. It'll feel good.
If you are one of those folks who woofs down their food, slow down, chew your food five additional times before swallowing it. Savor its flavor. Don't immediately wash it down with your favorite beverage. It doesn't make any difference if you are at your favorite burger or pizza place or an elegant luncheon at one of those delightful out-of-the way bistros. And while you are at it, take time to look around you. Notice the others present. If someone makes eye contact, smile. Pay attention to your waitress or waiter. If they have a name tag, call them by name. If you really want to expand your potential spiritual renaissance, take the time to ask that person how he or she is. You will have worked wonders for that person. And started a small renaissance in your own soul.
Recently while I was at my local grocery, I watched a young woman cashier. She was obviously harried, tired, and most likely feeling unappreciated. She was slouched, a posture saying she was other than she should be. An elderly lady, in front of me, carefully placed her basket on the counter, carefully opened her purse, and began to count out the money. The cashier sighed and her look and demeanor showed she was not interested in dealing with another old lady taking all day to count out her money. Then I heard, "My goodness, Sarah, that new hairdo makes you look real snappy." A small miracle occurred. Sarah was instantly transformed into a smiling, warm, and friendly person. I was the recipient of Sarah's renewed outlook as she greeted me with a wonderful, "And how are you today?" It's infectious. Give it a try.
An e-mail from a much respected friend asked me, why do we need this connection to the ineffable mystery, to feel a sense of spirituality? My immediate response was because we are spiritual beings. Of course that was not an acceptable answer. It falls into the same category of a parent who replies to his or her child's question with "Because I said so." And that's not good enough.
Even if by some weird chance we suddenly have no religions, no great cathedrals, splendid mosques, ornate temples, or picturesque New England churches, I think we human beings would still seek the spiritual. Ample anthropological evidence demonstrates mankind's effort to connect to the mystery of all mysteries . . . Creation. Zoologically there is evidence that certain species return to their place of conception. Biological evidence is mounting that suggests there is The God Particle of the Brain . I am not a scientist but it seems to me that man's soul seeks its place of conception—that infinite mystery of mysteries. And he does so, because it is his nature—he is a spiritual being.
Are there barriers to the spiritual experience? Look in a mirror, any mirror. There's the barrier; that magnificent, splendid you. Admit it. You and you alone prevent you from having a wondrous spiritual experience. You put up the road blocks. You have appointments: pick up the kids, see the doctor, go to the gym, and get the car serviced. You get the picture. You choose to do these things and many more. The choices you make determine the kind of existence you have, and that determines the potentiality for genuine spiritual contentment.
Contentment is an interesting word. It means being happy with your life's situation. Emotionally it expresses warmth and an inner satisfaction. Our culture is bombarded with soft images of people who are emotionally content. The implication is if you don't look like that and feel like that you are not content. In that case you need a cup of something or other, a soak in a bubble bath, or a lazy swing in a hammock. The effort is to present an idealized photo montage of what a contented person should be like. They are as unreal as the early television shows depicting American idealized family life: Life with Father, Ozzie and Harriet, and Mama. You may ask is there an attainable ideal. One of the founding principles of our fabulous country is an inherent belief in the perfectibility of man. If, however, you buy into the philosophy expressed by the old saw, "You can't change the stripes on a tiger" then I would ask why we, as a society, support thousands of organizations whose sole purpose for existence is to help people change their lives. There is no lack in recent news of people publicly seeking to changes their lives. And do! There is no need to mention them here. And this notion you can't change the stripes on a tiger doesn't take into account the thousands of religious organization that pepper our country; it denies the millions of "self-help" books available to those desirous of change, and just as many books about those who have changed. As a nation we do believe in New Beginnings. How does this belief equate with personal contentment?
The fallacy in seeking personal contentment lies in incorrect goal setting. Small steps cover many miles. You don't say I am going to seek contentment any more than you can work toward happiness. Neither is a goal and therefore can't be achieved. Both are states of being. If what you are doing does not provide contentment, stop whatever it is you are doing and do something else.
I said once before to yell yes as an affirmation of your being. And if you can, jump up and click your heels. After all there's nothing so wondrous as your Self. Right? You, believe it!
Mathew Alpert. Rogue Press, 1996.
©Norman W. Wilson, 2020