Before I discovered yoga, I thought I knew the answer to this question. Contentment? That’s simple. I’ll experience contentment just as soon as I’ve achieved all my goals and achieved everything I think I want.
However, although this premise is simple, achieving it isn’t. At any given moment, I have an infinite number of goals, desires and wants. Right now, my goals include running a half marathon, improving my cycling and learning to speak Spanish. I want a coat for winter, a new Manduka yoga mat and a drying rack that works. I'd also really like someone to massage the pulled muscle in my shin, make me a cup of tea and bring me biscuits. If I’m lucky, I might get one of these desires, but it’s unlikely I’m going to get them all. Even if I did get all these lovely things, the trouble is that more desires will have popped into my head to replace them. (Read about The Roots of Suffering.)
This is why making the experience of contentment conditional on achieving goals, or material possessions is flawed. I will never in one moment have all that I desire, unless - and this is the sticking point - I don’t desire anything. (Learn about The Wisdom of Non-Attachment.)
For most of us, the idea of not having any desires sounds great in theory, but is incomprehensible in reality. Maybe one day we will reach that point through meditation, following our spiritual path, and doing a lot of work on our mind.
But for those of us who know our minds are far from free of desire, is there anything we can do to experience contentment? The answer, happily, is yes. It comes from the realization that even though we don’t have all that we want and desire, we can choose to be okay anyway. We can practice absolute acceptance of the present moment, recognizing that we are already enough. We can discover that when we come entirely into the present moment, we already have all that we need. (Read more in Finding Happiness.)
This isn’t easy, but yoga and meditation help. Like anything, experiencing contentment takes practice. This might be through meditation and learning to be present and observing whatever comes up without judgement. Or it might be on your yoga mat, noticing when you can’t do something in the way you want to, but choosing instead to accept that and be content with where you are right now.
And when you catch yourself thinking, “I’ll be content when…,” remind yourself of the following quote from the movie, "I Heart Huckabees":
“Everything you could ever want or be you already have and are.”