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Monday, 31 December 2018

You know you are content when......

I'm blessed to have friends who send me uplifting messages every day. One such message I received on 27th December, 2018, was a quote of Swami Chinmayananda, and it said:

“They are rich who are content with what they have. Even a king is but a miserable pauper when he feels his vast kingdom is not enough for him.”

I put this quote up as my WhatsApp status and after a few hours, someone who saw this responded with a question…

“But when is the time you realize that you should be content with what you have?”

For once, I had no glib reply.

But I wanted to give the asker of the question an answer. So I thought I’d poll my ever-obliging set of dear readers. Replies came in thick and fast, and within two to three hours of asking, I had about 50 replies.

I sorted through them and  picked the ones that were clear to understand. I’ve edited some of them for typos/brevity. Here they are:




You may also read this blog post written about his encounter with a barber that gave him some insight  
Here are a couple of more detailed replies.

Dr. Shreyas, Pharmacologist, wrote:

In the initial days of my career I too aspired to get promoted, incentives etc. But I used to be very stressed all the time and not happy. Then I started thinking why do I work? How much do I need? I realized that at the end of one year I was paying 1/3 my earnings to the government. Plus there were only so many investment options without risk so at some point we had to invest in risky options which as you might have guessed is quite stressful. I also realized that a clerk could also live decently within his means. So this meant that we were slogging hard for money which was surplus and which was also a cause of stress. So we both decided to slow down a bit and enjoy our earnings in travel. But I have always been content with few materialistic things and I really don't feel the need for any expensive things in my life. But my quest for improvement in self, art, and skills is always ongoing but whereas in my younger days there was some amount of stress involved, now I just do as much as I can and don't bother about the outcome so much.
This is an ongoing process since last 8-10 years.
Now I firmly believe 1)everything happens for the best. 2)Nobody receives either more or less than they are destined to. So we should do our best and let be.

Smt. Shailaja, Pharma professional said:

As life unfolds with its twists and turns, the priorities change and there comes a time when we seek beyond the materialistic goals. This shift or realization will be different for all people depending on the situations /circumstances we are faced with , books we read, learnings from epics, history, near death, suffering, disease humbles us, trivial nature of wants and basic needs of pure joy, love warmth of being human and gratitude makes one appreciate LIFE! Being alive is a celebration in itself!

These thoughts are a true representation from the experiences of people in the real world. 

They come from different backgrounds, and have different personalities, and have faced different experiences. 

So, I’ve offered the asker of the original question – and all of you reading this post – a wide range of responses to illuminate the path towards finding your particular answer. I’m very thankful to all those who responded to my question – even though they may not have figured on the blog, they’ve helped me gain insight and grow.

A little footnote. Generally, when someone asks me a question, I always have a ready answer. Why not this time? I wondered at my behavior of not giving an outright answer. And I realized that this being stumped for an answer came from a truly deep acceptance of the fact that my answer would not be the one that’s best for the asker. Now, I always knew this at the intellectual level, but that day, the fact that I didn’t jump up to give my answer indicated that finally, the learning of all these years had translated into actual action – or, rather, inaction in this case!

The universe has conspired to make sure I’m filled with contentment, but that does not give me any right to say that my way has to be the best way – I can only say my way is best for me, based on my situation; so it naturally follows that there will be as many paths as there are individuals.

But I don't want to disappoint those who wanted to know my answer to this question. 

The famous poet Kahlil Gibran wrote:

"And what is fear of need but need itself.
Is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?"

So, here's my standard operating procedure to decide when to be content. 

First, I check to see if I have a well. 

If I have one:
1. I check how much water it contains.

2. I estimate if that quantity will satisfy my needs.

3. If it will, I leave it at that...

4. If it won't, I find ways to ensure sufficient water in the well.

If I don't have a well:

1. I think about whether I need one.

2. If I do, I go about digging one and letting it fill.

3. If I think I don't need a well, I leave it at that...

At every stage, I pray that God guides me in the right direction...and keep reminding myself that He is ultimately the provider of the water - well, or no well...

Writing this blog post, I’m reminded of that famous Leo Tolstoy story – How Much Land Does a Man Need? A poor peasant is told he can walk around to purchase all the land he wants provided he reaches back to his starting point by sunset. He sets out, covers a huge area and then, realizes he’s very far from the starting point, begins to run, reaches there just as the sun is setting and then, his heart fails, and he drops down dead. All that’s needed to bury him is 6 feet of land.

Perhaps setting up our major life events in the context of this story will help us decide when it is time to be content.

On a lighter note….I recently read an anecdote that spoke of a king suffering from some grave illness. The astrologist said the king would be cured if he could be dressed in the shirt of a contented person. After a thorough search of the full kingdom, a contented man was finally found.....and....he didn’t have a shirt…..

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