Sunday, July 29, 2012

True Contentment

Scott Bradley

Truly: 'He who has once known the contentment that comes simply through being content, will never again be otherwise than contented.'
(The Way and Its Power; Waley)
This aphorism embedded in the 46th chapter of the Daodejing, like so many observations simple and wise, is easily admired and then shelved among others soon forgotten. Yet I suspect that the author hoped that we would take the time to let it penetrate and transform our hearts.

"The contentment that comes simply through being content" is a contentment that depends on nothing. It is non-contingent. The moment we think we need something to make us content, not only is there no contentment, but none is possible.

How then does one have this true contentment? Well, one needs to.... No, that won't work. It seems that if you have it, you have it, and if you don't you won't. But surely there must be some way in which we might grow into it. Yes, "grow" might be a key. "Grow" is indeed a wonderful word, pointing as it does to an organic process which exists well beyond the boundaries of intellection, intention and doing. Growth happens. And contentment can also happen. We just can't make it happen. Trying to be content is like the man from Song who tried to help his rice grow by pulling it up.

This true contentment has its roots in the vast freedom of surrender of all that one is into Vastness. Does this sound glib? Or fantastical? It could be. But need it be? Is there a possibility of such an experience? I think there is. And it requires no "Vastness", or any other metaphysical abstraction to happen. Is there anything more obvious, anything more in-your-face, anything more present to you, than this emptiness in which you dwell? Or am I uniquely ungrounded?

Call it what you like, but still you can lose yourself there. Give it up. Let it all go. "Hand it all over to the unavoidable." Let it all "bask in the broad daylight of Heaven." "Hide the world in the world." "Add nothing to the process of life." Trust. Release yourself into mystery where there is nothing to lose and nothing to gain, where all is well and cannot be otherwise. Here is the contentment that depends on nothing; just as you depend on nothing.

You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.

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