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Cultivating Contentment

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I have spent weeks now formulating this article in my mind, I have at least three different versions on my laptop so perhaps it was the Universe’s way of telling me to get moving: the laptop crashed. I’d like to start by prefacing this with some information on your heart chakra. Our heart represents so much to us, mostly Love and Heartache, but it is also where Spirit meets Body, where the Spiritual meets the Physical. The very physical rooted lower chakra energy and the higher chakra’s Universal energy meet in our heart chakras, swirling and melting together in our chests. Part of working with any of your chakras involves reflection and contemplation, but the heart especially!

With a back injury that kept me out of work for six weeks I had plenty of time to contemplate! Not surprisingly, least of all to me, I happened to be actively working with my heart chakra when the injury happened. I created my own little ‘base camp’ on the couch, with a view of the Rockies in the distance and tried to use the time to my advantage in pursuing my spiritual work. One day, as I was practicing ‘simply being’ I took just a moment to observe my surroundings and quickly felt a blanket of contentment settling over me. I had two cats purring on my legs and lap, a window that framed a brilliantly blue winter sky with a sweet little Daffodil plant in front of the window. There was no sound, no TV, no radio, no voices…just the purring. It was their purring that prompted me to think “I wish I could be as content as they are as much as they are!” and that’s when I began to look around to observe what I might find to cultivate a sense of that contentment.

The next sense I felt was one of “I’ve been wishing for the wrong thing!”

Sometimes it feels as though I’ve spent my whole life wishing to ‘just be happy’ and the more I contemplated, the more I realized ‘happy’ is such a loaded word. You can’t MAKE ‘happy’ happen, but when I think of times I’ve been really happy, it almost always seems to involve other people, rare events or special occasions: things I can’t possibly repeat on a daily basis. Weighing ‘happy’ against ‘content’ I could see that contentment felt much less conditional to outside sources and more of something you find with simple awareness and observation. A constant source for me has been my connection and love of cats, my childhood Jerry Cat used to crawl inside my PJ tops and lie directly on my chest, purring contentedly with his eyes closed while I drifted to sleep. Now days I call that “cat therapy”.

The main conclusion I came to after all this reflection: from now on I will try (old habits die hard, don’t they!) to replace “happy” with “content” when I visualize the ‘future me’ I want to create in the now and present. When it feels like the world is set against me, I will no longer shake my fists at the ceiling yelling “Why can’t I just be happy!?” Partly because as I learn to really use my spiritual tools and put them in place, I’m more receptive to changing my perspective and relieving the pressure that is causing the feeling in the first place-partly because I’m trying to be more conscious about observing and being grateful for the beautiful animals, people and yes, some beautiful things in my life that soothe. Mostly because I will change the question to “Where can I find contentment right now, in this moment?”

For those of us who feel and react first then think, this is not as easy as it sounds. In the past I frequently found myself in the middle of major breakdown mode wondering how I got there. The biggest difference my spiritual quest has made is that I start questioning myself, my emotions and my actions before it becomes out of control. I also have realized, in a new way, that working with horses and spiritual work have two huge things in common: it is WORK built on consistent actions and the first key is learning to control your emotions. Meaning, this stuff is work, you have to DO IT and it is not easy because it IS so revolved around emotions: emotions from the distant past and everything that happened to you today, emotions that may not even be valid if they were formed due to misunderstandings or miscommunications!

The good news is that with practice you can learn to observe, to take a moment and be amazed at the flower growing through the crack in your sidewalk, to observe the glittery texture of a flower petal, to observe the unbroken blanket of snow that glistens and sparkles in the sun or to sit quietly and let the purr of a cat fill your heart. The beauty we have available to us on the Front Range may have some very common themes: the Rockies and all that comes with them the biggest. Beyond that we all have our own unique ways of cultivating contentment, it is simply up to us to make the effort, to commit ourselves to being present and aware.

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