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Mountain Lake Contentment

Three days of solitude among the majestic mountains around Trout Lake, Colorado overwhelmed me with beauty -- quiet hiking trails complete with vistas that took my breath away leaving me silenced. The tranquility of the vast mountain lake captured my mind and all mindless chatter ceased. This is contentment. Alfred Nobel, a Swedish Scientist of the 1800s, tells us, “Contentment is the only real wealth.” Trout Lake contentment in the middle of real world chaos appears unattainable. All it takes is some powerful intention.

Choose Forgiveness

To cultivate contentment we need to be willing to forgive. I know this is not where you were expecting to start. Forgiveness is two-sided: letting go and moving forward. There is a releasing of the old and a creating anew. Grieve the hurt, the loss, the trauma. Let go of the blame. Honor the moment of loss. Acknowledge who you are becoming. Cut the ties to the past. Use our energy in new ways. Find compassion. Create new patterns. As we practice forgiveness, choosing to forgive ourselves becomes a priority. Nothing robs us of contentment more than choosing not to forgive. It’s a process that is well worth the effort.


Practice Gratitude

Often we find ourselves content until we compare ourselves to others. We see they have something we do not. They appear happier, healthier, more successful, more financially stable, more influential, more . . . Our minds begin to focus on what we don’t have compared to what (it appears) they do have. Immediately we are discontent. Cultivating a posture of gratitude restores contentment in the wake of comparison. Practicing gratitude re-focuses our mind on all the things in our world that are good.  

Use Goals, Don’t let Them Use You

Pushing ourselves to grow and develop requires us to set goals, expect more, and push beyond our current circumstances. This creates a tension between the idea of contentment and dreaming big. Letting our goals guide us but not hold us hostage is a key to contentment. Goals are simply targets. When I first tried archery in school, anytime I hit the target I celebrated (and so did everyone else). A bull’s eye was not necessary. Hitting the target was a significant accomplishment. Rather than using goals in a way that leave us discontent with ourselves and our world, using goals as a guide toward a great target will reduce the tension between dreaming big and choosing contentment.

Stepping into contentment requires intention on our part. It will take time and consistency, support and encouragement. As we choose forgiveness, practice gratitude and allow goals to simply guide us, we will see contentment begin to mushroom in our world. I still recommend Trout Lake and, at the same time, I know we can tap into the wealth of contentment without ever leaving town.


After the Storm

Spring in Texas is gorgeous.  The sunshine is warm and inviting.  The wild flowers are blooming in all the open fields and along the highways.  Spring in Texas is where we all want to be, except when the storms fire up.  Two nights ago we had a storm that dropped an inch of rain on us in no time, the winds blew at 85 mph and the hail littered the yard.  As we started the clean up the next morning it felt overwhelming.  A neighbor down the street had an entire tree down across the road.  A friend in an adjacent neighborhood had the tree in his front yard laying across the drive way.  Our next door neighbor had a tree land on their roof and knock the chimney down.  Our pergola was picked up off it’s supporting poles and reset on the roof.  Not to mention the random large limbs in the yard and the billions of broken twigs that covered streets, drives, grass and were plastered up against walls.  

                                    The house next door.

                                    The house next door.

After a storm, it’s hard to know where to start.  Everything seems so insurmountable that you feel like no matter what, you can’t make a difference.  No matter what you start on, there will still be so much to do that you’ll never overcome it all.  We’ve all experienced personal storms or moments in our life when we felt like that.  As I began what seemed like a puny effort to face the damage of the storm, I started to think about how my actions after a physical storm are really similar to the action that needs to be taken after personal storms.  

First, just get started. If the “bleeding has stopped,”  just get started.  Once you start picking up after the storm, you can adjust your course of action.  But the big first step is just get started.  So I walked out the garage door and started sweeping the drive way.  Probably not, the most urgent or essential but getting started helped me to assess what to do next, how to break down the big job into smaller ones, etc.  Personal storms can paralyze you.  The best way to recover is to get moving.

Start on something small and manageable so that the completion can give you encouragement and motivation.  The driveway seemed do-able to me.  I scooped up several bags of debris.  It was manageable and the progress was obvious.  It helped me see that I could get the front yard cleaned up also.  One small win, after a storm, propels you to the next win.  

Get help. I do not have the understanding or skill to fix the pergola.  The only step to take there — call the experts, starting with the insurance adjuster.  Sometimes during or after a storm, the best thing you can do is call the professionals — people with skills you do not have.

Walk away for a period.  After hours of work on the aftermath of a storm, taking a break gives you fresh wind to tackle the next thing and new perspective to see the progress that’s already been made.   The entire area was without electricity, so we drove 25 minutes away to have lunch. At lunch, we relaxed, enjoyed family, and rested from the work.  Upon our return, it looked totally do-able.  Just hours earlier, it was overwhelming but now it felt conquerable.  

Finally, give thanks.  After seventeen hours without electricity, an entire community began to express thanks.  Gratitude for what we do have and gratefulness for what we typically have and a genuine spirit of awe for the intangible things of life.  No matter where you are in the storm or after, choosing gratitude will adjust your own perspective and develop a spirit of hope.