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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Contentment is a long term condition and happiness is more of a fleeting situation, although one that we certainly want to experience.
Yes, I know exactly what you mean about savoring a beautiful summer day. Summer in the Northeast can have periods of “moody” weather, so when a sunny, low humidity and comfortable temperature day comes around …. yippee! On a day like that I experience contentment and happiness!
Jan, Exactly!!! 🙂 Wishing you many non-‘moody’ days this summer. 🙂
Noticing the ‘little’ things………serendipitous moments of joy ???
Ah, yes, 🙂
Wonderful article, Shannon; grounding, inspiring, and a powerful reminder. Exactly what I needed to read this morning. Thank you!
Pamela, Thank you for stopping by and saying hello. Happy to hear this post resonated. Wishing you a great start to the new week. 🙂
Yes! Love so many various kinds of weather, and it makes waking up even more of an adventure to see what’s happening….Shannon, those sublime moments you have been experiencing become a deep breath you sort of never want to exhale, yes? You’ve described this so beautifully. It can happen in what many may feel is adverse weather also, and that’s when I try to edit my bursting joy and just savor it on the inside….complete with rain hat! Thank you for the lovely post.
Liz, I love it! “My bursting joy” creates quite the visual and what exuberance to be around for those lucky enough to be part of your days. 🙂 I also really appreciated how you pointed out waking up each day becomes an adventure – almost like waiting to see what today’s gift will be. Thank you for reminding of us, because it is absolutely spot on. 🙂
Reading your post, I am remembering idle summer days as a child when I would lie down under the apple tree. My horse nosed around the apples on the ground, and we seemed in sync, even though there had been a summer storm the night before.
The point was that moments like these exist even now, and being with my dog in the early am I notice his eager search of new smells, which makes me more aware and in the moment.
Thank you for your gentle nudges to be in our contentment; I am loving this summer day.
Joan, Thank you for painting both images in our minds. How peaceful that each must be. The synchronicity with our animals is a priceless gift, and it makes me think of Norman just this morning, after having gone on our morning walk at the off-leashed forest area, we walk back in the house, I boil water for my tea, and once I picked up the tray to take to the office, he picked himself up off the kitchen floor and headed to the office without coaxing, just knowing the order of the day. These everyday moments I savor deeply, and whilst I have no control over Norman, I am grateful when we are in sync such as today. Wishing you much to savor in your summer day today. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂
Very good reminders! I am in the mountains of AZ and normally, we are pretty dry and tend to somehow miss the monsoon lately. But this year, we are more humid than I can remember in the last 15 years I’ve lived here. So, I am appreciating the softness and moisture in my skin instead of whining about the never ending dampness feeling..(I am from the East coast and remember it well!) We finally have been getting rain and I LOVE seeing all the birds dance around and revel in it. I have always said, appreciate a rainy day! I shall spend my day today planning a makeover in my powder room. Have a great week!
Michelle, you have painted a picture in my mind that has made me smile! Birds dancing! 🙂 Thank you for your uplifting comment. Have a lovely day and week!
Shannon you have put into words exactly what I have been feeling for a very long time; and the pandemic has given me more time to reflect on the idea of simple contentment, mindful presence. These are the very ideas and values that have brought me to your podcast and blog over the years. Sending many thank yous xx
Erzsebet, Thank you for stopping by and thank you for doing so over the years. The pandemic gave an opportunity, didn’t it, to understand what is of true rich value in our lives. And while understanding what contentment and its gifts truly feel like takes time, when we figure out and put to use the skills, oh, the joy runs deep. Part of it, I have found, is pushing through that time of hesitancy to let go of what we have been told will make us ‘happy’ and instead trust our intuition to believe there is more depth of a wonderful life experience. Because there is, but it’s hard to trust that when we have not experienced it first-hand. It is my hope that TSLL can be the place to provide the trust in one’s intuition that nudges us to keep seeking contentment until we find it. Thank you for your comment. 🙂
Part of what has grounded me in the past few weeks are noticing and appreciating the “little” things. Beautiful flowers, birds (even some hawks) in the back yard, coffee in the morning, the quiet. All help me slow down and breathe to take in moments with presence and gratefulness.
Nova, Thank you for sharing what has helped you. Yes, observing the wildlife around us seems to immediately ground me as well. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂
I agree with this piece wholeheartedly. Taking the time to feel gratitude for the little things allows us to feel more joyful and amplifies our appreciation for (what some might term) the everyday. This is a joy I will gratefully accept!
Indeed! Thank you for stopping by Cara. 🙂