“Contentment is the greatest wealth.” —Siddhārtha Gautama, The Buddha
The USDA has shared that “one large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people”.
Through the process of photosynthesis, leaves pull in carbon dioxide and water and use the energy of the sun to convert this into chemical compounds such as sugars that feed the tree; the by-product of that chemical reaction is the creation of oxygen that is then released by the tree for living creatures to breathe in order to live.
While the literal planting and caring for a tree rather than removing trees is indirectly what I hope to inspire you to consider doing with today’s post, figuratively speaking, and more directly I hope to inspire you to give yourself figurative oxygen. When we give our life oxygen, which is something we either choose to do or not to do, we give ourselves one of the best gifts of all.
Similar to a flame that needs oxygen to continue to stay alight, which involves access to the gas of oxygen, once the flame is smothered, leaving no access to oxygen, the flame is extinguished. Similarly, we too need to give our days, and thus our minds, space and openness to explore, discover and choose without expectation because it is the presence of ‘oxygen’ that enables us to be aligned with what we need to thrive and find inner calm and grounding contentment.
The Buddha’s quote above referring to what we give our lives when we cultivate contentment is a simple, yet clear reminder of our objective as we make decisions that become the rhythm of how we move through our days. And the question we have to ask ourselves is how can you add ‘trees’ to your life that will provide more oxygen in order for you to not only stay alive, but come to life?
Over the past couple of weeks, at the end of each day, I have found myself reflecting and noting the difference between how I was feeling with regard to contentment one year ago, even two years ago, and clearly noticing a distinct improvement. If you have been a long-time reader of the blog, you know much transition, chosen transition, was happening during the past 2-3 years in my life, and gradually so over the past 10-15 years (my recent book shares the journey in detail and the discoveries along the way), and it has been a priceless discovery to feel more at peace and steady than I have ever known before.
My personal journey to living a life of true contentment, shared in The Road to Le Papillon: Daily Meditations on True Contentment
By giving my own life ‘oxygen’, I was able to determine with grounded clarity the ‘trees’ I needed to add to elevate the quality of my life.
But first, what does giving our lives ‘oxygen’ look involve, you may be wondering?
- Investing in a career that gives you life, vitality and purpose even if the paycheck is initially, or by design, less secure, grand or doesn’t come with traditional benefits as part of the guarantee of accepting the job.
- Setting boundaries with people in your life who take away oxygen and observing how they respond, and how you feel.
- Honoring what you need to feel rested, comfortable in your body and mind, and caring for each well, regularly.
- Engaging in self-care.
- Finding the courage to set yourself free and think clearly about what you truly desire and need versus what you are told you should desire and need.
And the next question may then be, How does giving ‘oxygen’ to our life deepen our contentment?
When we clear out our lives, our everydays, of excessive responsibilities, too many tasks (often we are taking on tasks that are not ours, but we assume they are or it will reflect well on us to take others’ tasks on, so we do so for the applause, attention, or adoration that we haven’t given ourselves), we begin to give ourselves literally time to think clearly. While it will take time to ‘unclutter’ our minds of the chatter from society of what we should be doing (find and cultivate mindfulness tools to help you do this), once we do, gradually, and sometimes suddenly, we know what we need to find inner calm, to be fulfilled, to live a life of true contentment. This journey to true contentment will likely take quite a bit of time, but with each day you gain insight and awareness and your decisions begin to align with what you need to soar into your gifts, but also remain grounded and free of expectation, and as you see the improvement to the quality of our life with each decision, you will find inspiration to continue to deepen this exploration of living a life of contentment. But let’s get back to oxygen’s role . . .
. . . it was the gift of oxygen that you gave to your life that is providing the clarity that you had previously been seeking, but not able to find.
Oxygen is our life force needed to survive, and once we open the airway inviting regular oxygen into our days, we know what to add to our lives that would enliven and align with what gives us delight. Because when what you do during your days is delightful, and yes, that includes work and your career, but also your personal life, you genuinely feel grateful to being doing what you are doing because you have found a purpose, your purpose, something that holds dual roles – (1) gives you life and fans the flames of ‘oxygen’ increasing your energy to keep doing what you love even if it is challenging, so that you can (2) contribute something constructive to the greater world around you. And then you will discover you are thriving.
And here is the beautiful paradoxical truth of the progression described above, you actually don’t need to strive arduously in order to thrive. Why? Because you have aligned yourself with your awesome, unique gifts, and the only arduous part of this journey is garnering up your courage to step into what feels completely natural for you to do, even if it doesn’t make sense to others. And the reason it doesn’t make sense to others is because it’s not their journey.
Once you begin to gain clarity about what brings you delight, what holds you in the present moment without effort, what nurtures your true self and brings it forth to be shared with the world, you begin to want to nurture this space in your life and then it begins to expand as your contentment deepens, and you begin to find the motivation and infinite energy to honor the value of oxygen in your daily life and not clutter up or overwhelm your days because it is in the slowing down that you discover your purpose and in the deepening of your awareness through the purposeful inclusion of oxygen to your days.
So today, ask yourself, how many ‘trees’ have you planted in your life? How are you nurturing yourself to make the courageous choices that will lead you to discovering what you need so that you can savor your everydays and live a life of true contentment each day, the grandest wealth to attain and possible for each of us.
SIMILAR POSTS/EPISODES YOU MIGHT ENJOY
(this episodes discusses the distinction between your tasks and those of others)