339: The Paradox of True Contentment
Wednesday September 7, 2022

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“The paradox of [contentment] is that it doesn’t matter about our situation of life as meditation gives us freedom in the mind, but [when we cultivate contentment] we want to try to create an environment that is good for our body and mind.” —Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

Welcome to the premiere of the 9th season of The Simple Sophisticate podcast.

In September 2014, the podcast debuted, and continues to premiere a new season each subsequent September. If you are new listener, be sure to explore all of the past episodes located on the podcast page here on the blog, and if you would like, begin with episode #1 which is the most downloaded episode of the entire show.

I want to take a quick moment to thank the more than 1,050 listeners from around the world who have written a review for or ranked the show on their preferred podcasting platform. I try to share listeners’ reviews on episodes of the show as my way of thanking you for taking the time for sharing what you enjoy about the podcast because it genuinely makes a difference, and new and potential listeners read what you share, taking note to find out what this show is all about. And most importantly, I know you have many things that occupy your attention, and ranking and especially reviewing takes time, so thank you very much for giving of your time. (below is a snapshot of the past couple of weeks of the show, and you will see in the upper right-hand corner the total number of reviews and rankings)

Screen Shot 2022-09-05 at 9.58.01 AM

The Podcast has moved to Wednesdays!

As you no doubt have noticed, today’s podcast episode is appearing on a Wednesday and that is not by accident. Moving forward as I began sharing this past summer, the podcast will share new episodes on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. The reason for moving the show from Monday to Wednesday is to accommodate a work week that honors when I have the most creativity and time to give to writing and producing the show. For the first 6-7 years of the show, I wrote, taped and produced the show over the weekend due to my teaching schedule during the work week; however, now that I am exclusively writing and can design my own schedule, I want to dedicate my Mondays to writing each new episode and Tuesdays to taping and producing so that I can bring a fresh new show to you every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of every month.

With that said, there is still inspiring content to kick off a brand new week on the blog in the form of the weekly Monday Motivational post that will be shared every single week so long as there is a Monday in it (which there always will be!;)). Be sure to check out this week’s Monday Motivational post here, Saying No to a Culture of Non-Truths and Finally Finding Inner Calm.

Now to today’s episode which concludes with two Petit Plaisirs as we celebrate the commencement of a new season.

“The paradox of [contentment] is that it doesn’t matter about our situation of life as meditation gives us freedom in the mind, but [when we cultivate contentment] we want to try to create an environment that is good for our body and mind.” —Andy Puddicombe, Headspace

To live a life of contentment is to live a life of inner steadiness, a feeling of being grounded and self-assured (not to be confused with arrogant and all-knowing) no matter what is swirling around you outside of your mind and body. I share on the homepage of the blog and again on the Introductions page of TSLL the definition of True Contentment which is not a term most people are familiar with. Happiness, yes, most people think they know what happiness is, but Contentment, rarely uttered and therefore rarely understood, and therefore, many are less likely to understand the awesome gifts and elevation to the quality of your life it can bring.

I took extra time when we were redesigning the blog last year to be very clear about communicating what Contentment is to new and current readers, explaining how Contentment, while different from happiness, is absolutely related. Take a look below at the distinction.

For today’s episode, exploring the paradox of contentment, I am going to zero in on the first bullet of the list above in the green box: when you invest in cultivating contentment within yourself (which is entirely within your control), you can navigate every day well no matter what the external events may be.

But first, let’s talk about what a paradox is.

The definition of Paradox:

a seemingly contradictory statement involving two (or more)  ideas that initially are perceived not being possible to exist simultaneously, but upon investigation and further examination, state a truth. 

The paradox of contentment begins and requires that we begin with becoming a student of mindfulness. Through meditation (of which there are many ways to practice – you don’t have to be sitting down, you can practice walking meditations and many other styles, so be sure to find one that suits you), you begin to gain more awareness of your thoughts, and are then, with consistent practice and time (i.e. patience) begin to step away objectively from your thoughts and assess them rationally, noting why they arose, what needs are not being met, etc. because you become a more honest student of yourself.

Fundamentally, living a life of contentment doesn’t just happen; it is a choice, and a choice we choose over and over again, but because we are consistent in our choice, we gradually begin to see the benefits of doing so and the choice becomes easier and easier and then becomes a healthy, constructive habit that is foundational to living our lives well. A more peaceful and rested mind; a mind for decision-making that has more clarity; a kinder, less defensive engagement with the world and to ourselves; and many more benefits (explore TSLL’s Archives in the category of Contentment to discover them all).

Let’s break that down.

Contentment is all about cultivating inner peace and calm regardless of what is going on around and outside of us, of which we have no control. It is when we begin to live a life of contentment that we begin to, as Andy Puddicombe’s quote above states, “create an environment that is good for our body and mind.” The latter half of this paradox is that our outer world begins to improve, change and reflect the peace and calm we feel inside. Directly, this change in the outer world, is not guaranteed, because we don’t have control over anybody else’s choices but our own, but how we bring ourselves to the world, how we engage, the decisions we make, what we prioritize, how we think and thus how we communicate, what we say, how we say it, if we even choose to say anything, is the energy that determines what we will experience in ways we cannot predict. And as you will begin to see, that constructive brave and loving energy is given back to you, and you begin to experience the living of your life in a more joyful way.

Gradually, through meditation which strengthens the mind, Puddicombe shares, “you begin to create the conditions both internally and externally, for peace of mind.”

One of the most difficult parts of choosing to live with contentment and accepting the above paradox to be true is that we cannot know when or how all of this will occur. As humans, our Lizard Brain wants to know. And if we cannot know for certain, we don’t want to dare waste our energy, but here’s the irony in the refusal to invest in contentment. By choosing to live a life of contentment, you actually fuel yourself instead of drain yourself. You won’t be wasting energy by learning how to cultivate contentment. You will be giving your life a deep breath, an energizing boost that on great days will take you even higher and on difficult days will sustain you and help you to healthily navigate through.

Immediate versus distant results. Or more directly, short versus long term results. Let’s take a look at the difference.

First of all, I’ll be honest, as humans, and especially in our culture of immediacy and shortened attention-spans, we want results immediately. I do as well. Count me on that list. We want to know if something is going to work before we invest. Of course, it will depend on what you are looking to invest in, but when it comes to your peace of mind which is a core component in your mental health and well-being, relationships and how you engage with the world in your place of work, community and home, it is hard to imagine anything more important to invest wisely in. And most substantive, deep life affecting investments take time to render their benefit. Sometimes the benefits are what never have to experienced because they have been mitigated by making the wise choice, and other times, the benefit of having clarity about what our heart and true self needs takes time because it asks us to be courageous up front, to take a seemingly huge risk up front without any promises, and then stay the course and continue to be a student, continue to apply the skills, continue to practice healthy daily habits, but then all of a sudden, you stop and look around you, and you are expressing gratitude for having cultivated loving relationships, a career that gives you purpose, a life you enjoy living each day and a world that is progressively improving. These awesome things take time, but they also take conscious effort and a brave person to ground themselves first to discover how to live well, and that starts with living a life of contentment.

The paradox of contentment demonstrates that the most difficult part of living a life of contentment is at the beginning when you are just starting to dare to trust that cultivating the necessary skills of self-awareness, mindfulness, etc. Why? Because likely the environment you live and/or work in, the relationship (maybe not all) that you are engaged in, don’t nurture the values you are trying to strengthen. However, with consistent, intentional effort, because you are living a life of true contentment, you begin to have the strength and trust in making different decisions that build relationships and an environment that does support how you want to live, and because you are surrounding yourself with such an environment, it becomes easier to live the life you had envisioned when you began the journey.

Below are a few examples of how our outer world begins to change and as a result of living a life of contentment, further nurturing the values of our choice.

  • how we spend our time – we seek out activities, hobbies and routines that fuels us and excite us rather than drain, deplete or reduce our self-esteem and energy
  • our homes become sanctuaries that we care for thoughtfully, decorate with patience and careful consideration knowledgeable of how our home environment affects us and what we need it to provide when we cross the threshold upon returning home.
  • because we have set boundaries, fewer people in our lives violate them, and if they do, we are less stressed because we know how to clearly set them and walk forward with or without them depending upon whether they honor what we can or cannot do.
  • our hobbies and our job/career become more fulfilling because we are honoring what lights us up, have been courageous in honoring our true selves and taken risks to explore, step toward what piques our curiosity
  • our relationships, the ones we have either kept or chosen to step into, are richer and more loving and uplifting because we have the energy and the courage to be brave and loving with our words and actions, our time and our valuing of our loved ones’ needs as well as being clear about our needs and bravely communicating and lovingly listening which eliminates resentment and builds trust that the relationship – romantic or platonic – is mutually consenting and truly loving rather than constraining and limiting.

As we all step into a new season, and in many ways a new year, as I shared in Monday’s Motivational post, while it takes time to see the benefits we consciously wish to welcome into our lives, it seems that far quicker than we might predict, the beauty of our days and life present themselves and we are experiencing them every day, in everyday moments.

Thank you for tuning in to today’s episode and the first episode of Season 9 of the podcast. I have two Petit Plaisirs to share with you, and look for a brand new episode (episode #340) on Wednesday September 21st.

Don’t forget that the 5th seasons of The Simply Luxurious Kitchen cooking show kicks off this coming Saturday, September 10th right here on the blog. Look for a trailer of the new season to be shared later this week on TSLL.

Petit Plaisir

~The Split, BBC series on Sundance

~The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier and Longer

~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #339

~Subscribe to The Simple Sophisticate:  iTunes | Stitcher | iHeartRadio | YouTube | Spotify | Amazon Music

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8 thoughts on “339: The Paradox of True Contentment

  1. Hooray to a new season and hooray to starting it off with the “paradox of contentment.” This is my first year as a top-tier subscriber and I continue to be inspired and challenged by your ideas. It is obvious just how much work and thought you put in…your passion shines through! Thanks.

  2. Hello Shannon, I appreciate your great topic: contentment. Loved it. For me contentment comes from being at peace with self and others; also surrender, acceptance of what we cannot change. What a difference it is to have peace in one’s soul! Wow. Thank you for today. Ever grateful. — Teresa

  3. Fantastic first post of the new season, Shannon! I love this deep dive into the subject of true contentment, your guidance is excellent, well-informed and inspirational. Brilliant, well-done, and thank you?

  4. Shannon, congratulations on the first episode of season 9 on the podcast! I just finished listening and it was so good that I want to listen again to take in all the good information about cultivating contentment. I am always inspired by the depth of content you present. Thank you!! Happy September to you. ~ Karen

  5. Great post to ease in to September Shannon. True contentment is the best gift we can give ourselves. Appreciate your guidance. Merçi beaucoup ?. Xx

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