Contentedness is inhibited through our own will . . .
A frequent obstacle to contentedness comes up in our refusal to accept current circumstances. There’s a wilful attempt to negate ‘what is’ with a movement towards ‘what should be’. We reject the world as it is and instead seek to bend it to our will. This refusal is the antithesis of the contented state itself, so necessarily produces discontent within. It’s not merely a hindrance to contentedness that’s thrust upon us by force of circumstance; the refusal’s a perverse act of denial – something we do.
. . . our impatience masks its appearance
This begs the question as to why we might ever choose to deny ourselves contentedness in this way. We can answer the question from different perspectives; though almost always there’s a component of impatience. We deny ourselves contentedness in thinking we can change reality for the better. And as there’s no time to waste, we don’t stop to think if our methods will prove effective. We indulge the compulsion to act, even though what ultimately we seek has passivity at its core.
Denying the inevitability of change . . .
Now of course, much of life is about effecting change, and this means acting in order to do so. And yet this kind of action need not come from any sense of denial as to ‘what is’. Life and existence are synonymous with change, and as we are life itself, then change is central to what we are as living beings. So ‘what is’ changes too, whether we like it or not. It doesn’t require our impatience to deny its current form. We can opt to display patience as we observe our involvement in that change.
. . . we seek to jump life’s queues selfishly
That’s a bit philosophical, so let’s look at an example. When I was young, I was often impatient at the wheel of my car. I’d drive into London each day weaving between the traffic on the Western Avenue. Many other drivers did this too, impelled by their own impatience. As a result, I’d park in the West End to start my working day partially drained. So I stopped the traffic dodging and yet found I arrived each morning at the same time. My hour of tension was so unnecessary.
We waste energy wanting to be elsewhere . . .
I used to resent queuing in person too. I often found myself assessing when I’d get to the front, all the while in a slightly agitated and unpleasant mood. Lots of energy went into all this negativity, yet it never produced anything. The problem even compounded itself because of course, I tried to conceal my agitation and that takes energy too – think Basil Fawlty. How stupid my behaviour was, and how unnecessary too. Denying the need to queue was always pointless.
. . . harming ourselves and others as we do so
For many people, it’s a lot worse. They kill or cause injury by their driving. They have strokes or heart attacks in middle age. They become ulcerous or suffer nervous breakdowns. They destroy their relationships or alienate all those around them. They’re forced to survive on anti-depressants, booze or dope. So much of this can be said to occur as a result of a refusal to display patience. It occurs in a denial of ‘what is’ and the correlative rejection of contentedness. It’s a form of insanity.
Acceptance is contentedness in action . . .
Contentedness is another word for acceptance; it’s the term we use to describe how we feel when we completely accept things as they are. And at the heart of the contented state is a certain passivity of the mind which results from our accepting attitude. The passive mind still functions perfectly well, and there’s no correlation with submissiveness or an inability to act. Yet there’s no denial present, no heated impatience. So, patience is key to our contentedness, and also to living healthily.
. . . we do as we must, yet free of impatient striving
Natural patience is effortless. We can’t force or feign its manifestation, remarking to ourselves how patient we’re being as we tap our toes on the floor. Patience isn’t about a physical passivity; it’s a mentally passive state. It has an uncontrived coolness which sees the utter redundancy of denying ‘what is’, whilst remaining able to act as necessary. We can still do things quickly, and even with a sense of urgency, and yet remain mentally passive and patient as we do so. Patience isn’t limiting at all.
Allowing opposites to exist, patience is born
The best way to develop natural patience is by observing and curtailing any heated impatience. It’s that obvious – a simple matter of allowing the opposite to exist. As we cease to bend the world to our will impatiently, then again too, the opposite comes into existence – which is acceptance. And acceptance is contentedness of course. This process of negation allows opposites to exist. It doesn’t require the involvement of an impatient self; our natural, uncontrived patience in being will suffice.