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The past week in Bend extended some of the most ideal summer days. Clear blue skies, low eighty-degree weather and only, if any, the gentlest of breezes. Having lived in Oregon all but one of my 42 years, I also know wildfire smoke often drifts into the air stream, and our blue skies and air are not pristine during the summer months. Ever increasingly, temperatures are higher for longer, so now more than ever, I savor when such a week as last week occurs.
Dining outside for breakfast on my garden porch, swinging away on my front porch swing in the evenings while reading or simply closing my eyes while Norman sits on the front stoop watching the neighborhood pass by, and spending more time in the garden were just a few of the ways I soaked up the weather to frame.
Upon sharing my exuberance with an acquaintance as the week concluded, they couldn’t quite understand my delight. The weather after all was supposed to be sunny in summer and the sky was supposed to be blue, etc., etc.. But nothing is guaranteed I thought to myself, because just like that, the winds can change.
The response from this individual is not uncommon, especially if the conditioning that surrounds us teaches through modeling (media, institutions’ annual events – graduations, annual award shows, etc. ) to reserve our uninhibited celebration or revelry for events of great prestige – the gold medal, the championship, the firework events, the diploma, the gold trophy. But if we only permit ourselves to celebrate the grand occasions, an amazing life passes us by.
It’s been written about before here on TSLL and shared on the podcast how by shifting what we pursue, contentment rather than happiness, we elevate the quality of our everydays. The above comparison demonstrates why.
Happiness exhilarates every cell in our being. When we hear our name announced as the winner, when we sign the papers on our new home, when we complete the necessary coursework to graduate after years of grueling study, when we see others we love succeed, these are all moments of great happiness. As they should be. But happiness depends on more than just our own actions; it also involves luck and circumstances outside of our control.
Now take a look at celebrating the beauty of a Bend Blue Bird Day reaching only summer high temps of the low 80s. Admittedly, the weather is ENTIRELY out of my control. But what is wholly my choice is to notice such beauty. Mother Nature doesn’t knock on my door or ring my doorbell. She doesn’t carry a banner across the sky with my name telling me to take note of such beauty. And she certainly doesn’t guarantee such a beautiful day to happen on a particular date on the calendar (no matter how diligently meteorologists and weather apps may try to pin her down). The beauty of the day just occurs, and it’s evanescent. Mindfulness teaches us to see the beauty in such moments, to see what many may say is quotidian, everyday, and nothing worth noting. But they would be wrong.
Contentment runs deep, and it is fueled my mindfulness which is a daily exercise in being present in our everydays. It doesn’t require that others acknowledge the beauty along with us; it doesn’t need a microphone or advertisement to bring our attention to its presence. It is because we are present, we are mindful, and because we are mindful that we reside in contentment. And . . . (this is how it elevates our moments of happiness)
. . . when we ground our days in contentment, we are more aware of all that is going on around us, and can witness those happenstance moments outside of our control that are absolutely magnificent even if others who haven’t learned the gift of contentment dismiss such truths.
So yes, that week of Bend Blue Bird weather gave me moments of happiness, but my awareness of the good fortune came to be due to a life lived in contentment.
When we live in contentment, we live differently. We choose differently, we slow down, our intent to live well each day no matter the circumstances out of our control guide our lives, not the pursuit of only happy moments.
The experience over the past year and a half illuminated the simple moments and activities we may have blithely walked by or dismissed because they were working, they were possible whenever we wanted to engage; however, now, previously unable to sit down in a restaurant, enjoy a concert, invite friends over to our homes or pack our luggage for a getaway, we giddily wait for our date of reservation to finally return to our favorite restaurants, take the time to set the table to share a meal and leave large buffers of time on either side of the dinner party to savor lingering and conversation. Such giddiness is a result of being mindful, and when we are mindful, we have learned a powerful lesson about what it means to know contentment.
Consciousness is key to holding on to contentment in our everyday lives. We don’t want to become numb to life. To take life itself for granted is to slowly lessen our contentment.
“At some point in the future, [attending live music performances] is all going to become very routine again. But I don’t want to forget this feeling. Because this is that moment where everybody really remembers and is faced with just how important art is in their life. And that’s something we should never forget.” —CEO of Wolf Trap National Park, the only National Park in the U.S. devoted to the performing arts, July 2021
Just as we should never forget how important art is in our life, we should never forget the importance of living in contentment each of our days. Everything elevates, and we discover even more to savor.
Now that the temperatures have risen into the 90s and a bit of smoke lingers in the air, I stay inside more, savoring the time I have to read the latest edition of a favorite gardening magazine, contemplate what is growing well in the garden this year and how I might tweak what isn’t for next year. Knowing what to do with these opportunities whenever they arise is what happiness requires. As some define luck as opportunity meeting preparation, since luck is the definition of the Latin root ‘hap’, such everyday moments are moments of happiness as well.
So today, let’s tend to our everydays by strengthening the skill of grounding ourselves in contentment. In so doing, we demystify happiness and release its magic to be more readily observable and experienced.
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Give Yourself the Gift of Contentment Everyday, All Day, episode #244