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“If you have easy self contentment, you might have a very, very cheap source of happiness.”
Leon Kass

There is a lot of rhetoric surrounding the Mindfulness/Wellness Community which focuses on gratitude as being an important part of a spiritual life, especially while confronting challenging situations. So it began to concern me that I have never once felt it possible to find gratitude while I was in a contracted state of being.  Somehow no quantity of list writing nor quality of meditation could produce a widening sense of gratitude inside me. An ability to source and offer love and thanks, but not an ability to feel more grateful than I was before. Attempting to make myself feel differently by intellectualizing my way around challenging thoughts or feelings made me angry and disappointed at myself for feeling stuck.

I have most definitely felt incredible moments of gratitude in my life, so why was it so hard for me to make it happen when I wanted it to? I started questioning the circumstances surrounding an experience of authentic gratitude, and what made it impossible to conjure at will. What I recognized was there was no attempt to manufacture those feelings during the experience. I wasn’t asking for gratitude. Authentic gratitude is not actually in our control because it’s not up to us to find, it’s gratitude that finds us.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” Rumi

What I have begun to meditate on is that there is a counterpart that allows gratitude to find us. Contentment. Now there is a stigma surrounding that word making people shy away from its pursuit. The world of ambition that we live in has us believe that to seek contentment means to settle, to let go of desires, to stay where you are, and give up hope. However, it’s actually the opposite. Contentment relates to a willingness to grapple with whatever is here in this moment. A willingness to take on and accept whatever is in front of us. How many times do we think we’d rather have someone else’s problems because they seem easier than what we’re dealing with. The truth is we do have those problems also, they’re just not problems for us. Whatever you think is in the way of getting to your life’s work is your life’s work. So when we give ourselves permission to stop pushing away or craving a different experience we soften into a space of contentment.  All of the energy being used to resist what we are faced with comes back into our bodies and our contracted state begins to soften. Contentment generates an aliveness that permits us to love things as they are, and allows us space and awareness; the conditions required to receive the love being offered. The realization of how we are being loved becomes a revelation. That revelation is gratitude. It is a deep and intimate experience that we cannot give ourselves, we can only create the conditions needed to receive gratitude as the loving gift it is.