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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.

Fighting Terror

One thing the last several days of terrorist attacks have left us all feeling is uncertain.  It seems impossible to fight something so pervasive.  You may have even thought there’s just nothing we can do about it.

What if we could actually fight the terror?

Community is our best weapon.  Not just any community but the kind of community that builds you up, helps you fight your own self-doubt and keeps you engaged in good.  Community gives us a place to belong; a place to discover ourselves; a place that fights isolation and abandonment and even fear.  Jean Vanier in his book From Brokenness to Community, basically says that to love someone in community reveals their capacity for life!  How can you extend that kind of community to more people?  Who in your world needs to be a part of a community like that and how can you be part of making it happen?  

If community is the best weapon, then development is the absolute mechanism for the fight.  Each of us are in the development business.  Whether you are butcher, banker, or candlestick maker, you are in the people development business.  If we all recognized that our purpose is to invest in the people around us, we could drive out terrorism.  If we started developing the person in the cubicle next to us, the neighbor next door and our child’s best friend, there would be far fewer people who have been left uncared for, discouraged, discontent and generally abandoned.  Jean Vanier emphasizes that if I’m growing toward wholeness, then I will be an agent of wholeness.  How can you encourage the next person forward?  What could you say or do that would leave the people in your world better?

At the ripe old age of 28, I found myself a bitter old woman.  Thankfully a women 30 years my senior scooped me up and began to mentor me, challenge my rough edges, refuse my sorry excuses and invest in me like my mother.  I was rescued from the attitudes of resentment and revenge and tutored in contentment and forgiveness. The community and development that came from that one relationship liberated me from a lifetime of hate.  

The best way to fight terrorism is to look for a community that loves you; connect everyone you cross paths with to a community that will love them.  Then make it your objective in life to invest in as many people as you are able and encourage others to invest in the ones around them.  Fight being terrified with belonging, engaging, investing, encouraging, not with fear, hate, withdrawal, and isolation.  Belonging, engaging, investing, being encouraged will also go a long way to prevent people in your neighborhood from wanting to terrorize. 

I'd love to hear from you.  Where are you being encouraged?  How are you investing in others?