Lounging on a white sand beach. Pooh Bear with a belly full of honey. Ah, the feeling of contentment. I realized when I think of the term, my vision sways to either picture book fiction or spa-grade fantasy, i.e., scenarios unattainable on a typical Tuesday.
Yet, yoga asks that we seek contentment as a guiding principle for harmony in our day-to-day lives. Contentment isn’t just a vacation event. It’s there, patiently waiting for us to uncover among the bustle and discord of our common days, thoughts and interactions.
I’ve actively challenged myself lately to find contentment in the most difficult situations – during tense inner dialogue and while idling at the pit of longing. It’s actually become a bit of a hide-and-seek game. Where’s the glint of contentment in this situation?
It turns out my kitchen holds the blueprint for a contented life.
Usually, when I glance across the kitchen island, I’m embarrassed to admit my default thoughts drift to pseudo cosmetic deficiencies: “I wonder when we’ll be able to upgrade the floors. Ugh, that countertop pattern….” But, with conscious effort, the sense of lack, the desire for “other,” shifts.
I remember that the path to peace reveals itself when I count my blessings. Not only do I have a huge kitchen with ample counter space for baking with my daughter, but this amazing, gadget-clad room features a shiny Magic lever at its center. Lift it one handed, and, “poof,” instant water! Clean, drinkable water, and, get this, I can make it piping hot or ice cold with the flick of a finger. I didn’t haul this water from a well down the road, and I didn’t build a wood-fueled fire to heat it. I have a dial, four actually, that twist for inst-o-matic flame.
Next to the fire maker, behind a shiny silver door, hides a store of fresh, healthy food chilled to last all week. My kitchen is chock-full of miraculous amenities and bounty not available to most of the world. I bow and kiss my ugly vinyl flooring. I have fire, thank you!
My motto for contentment: Kitchen it. It’s a shift toward gratitude, a consciously guided action to steer focus from depletion and longing to appreciation and peace.
There’s nothing like suddenly not having an American dream kitchen mainstay to spur a bit of perspective. My dishwasher (gasp) broke today. A giant sigh and pair of expletives later, I got a grip. I remembered that I have hot water, agile hands and the opportunity for a sudsy, moving meditation stacked on the kitchen counter. As I eased forks and spoons into soapy water, I recalled helping my great grandmother wash and dry dishes as a girl, standing on a chair next to her, pressing suds with slotted spoons. My heart swelled with unabashed contentment right there.
That’s a joyful memory, but being content doesn’t necessarily mean feeling happy. It’s more about finding balance no matter the circumstances. So often we think we seek happiness, when what we’re really after is contentment. It’s the fulcrum of peace.
My daughter kicked off Labor Day weekend with a doozy of a cold. Fever, chills, the whole shebang. All the gorgeous weekend long. Thoughts of amusement park rides and waterfall hikes went poof. This wanderlust mamma couldn't help feeling a bit stir crazy and discontent. Time to kitchen it. I read with her and snuggled up for movies. As my desire for preconceived family fun quieted, I studied her growing limbs and elongating face. I connected with the new girl she is growing into.
While she napped, I followed her breath. I savored a physical closeness that used to feel so familiar, but is fleeting as she grows older and more independent. Once I settled in, I was perfectly content to be the mamma she needed while ill, appreciative of our quiet weekend unmarred by distraction. I unwound and released expectations, which were soon replaced by a cocoon of peaceful appreciation.
“Kitchen it” works when I remember my spouse’s beautiful checkerboard mowing job after finding stinky man socks in my path. It works when I’m struggling with an uninspiring project and shift focus to the freedom and financial support the job provides.
Contentment is life’s ballast, the fruit of living in the moment free from regret about the past or worry about the future. Desire, the persuasive bane of contentment, has no place in the now and shrivels away. The clutch of results becomes irrelevant.
I dare you to engage in exactly what presents before you with fresh wonder and gratitude. Kitchen it, and prepare to marvel at your extraordinary life.