Find Contentment in a Discontented World

Follow Lao Tzu's 'Way' to be contented in life.

In an earlier post entitled ‘The Simple Way of Living Towards Peace of Mind’, I shared my own thoughts on living with simplicity, something which walks hand in hand with contentedness on a merry journey towards peace of mind.

So let us call up a wise Chinese Sage of ancient times to start this lesson with a contentment quote or two,

“Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

~ Lao Tzu

We are forever discontented in mind because of the need to complicate our lives with striving for external pleasures and vanities.  We are like spoilt children who are given a large amount of toys to play with – we then eventually become bored with them, disposing of them one at a time until we become restless, and then want a particular toy another child has so to temporarily fill the unhappy void of discontentment.

Let us now look at the things that we strive for in life, and which can lead to discontentment:

  • power
  • money
  • possessions
  • status

How much power does one want?  Enough power so that one can have control over another?  What should be more important is gaining the power to control ourselves, which may help to eliminate our discontentment.

“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still”

~ Lao Tzu

As for money and possessions; as long as you live within your means and can provide for you and your family the necessities to live, what more does one need?  We should not let external material things affect our mood and happiness.  We should find joy in the things we have in our lives such as our health, family, friends, and peace of mind.

“He who is contented is rich”

~ Lao Tzu

We should now look at what can cause discontentment to inflict the mind:

  • comparing yourself with others
  • boredom
  • greed
  • feeling of inadequateness
  • insecurity

Why oh why can we not be happy with what we currently have rather than allow our minds to project the need for ever more greater delights if we can somehow get our impatient hands on them in the future.  Our acquisitive minds search out and compare our supposed delights with what others have, and then it creates false judgments that everything someone else has is somehow greater than what we already possess.  We then use precious time to plot ways of attaining this new delight so that we can keep afloat on top of this sea of pretension.

Because of our ignorance, we are unaware that we are making our lives more difficult and complicated by us accumulating these false dreams of status.  The discontentment we feel inside is actually a chasm that is so deep that it can never be filled with more money, possessions, higher position and the like.  But we think we can escape falling into the depths of nothingness by continuously striving for the next pleasure, then the next, and forever more.  This in the end can bring total misery to a person, and the following syndrome describes perfectly the vicious circle one is trapped in,

“The more that one has, the more one wants.”

What we fail to see is that we already possess everything that is needed in life – and that is our minds.  Nothing should be judged greater or more important than a mind that is free and filled with wisdom.  A wisdom which will destroy the illusion of discontentment and will instead bring you contentment and joy with the things you have in life.  Wisdom will help you to perceive the ridiculousness of putting such a high value on man-made things, and will point you towards the simple things in life such as what nature demonstrates.

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough.”

~ Lao Tzu

You should strive for inward growth which will provide you with contentment and total fulfillment, and will give you the insight of not wanting to attain external growth that can bring with it an extra burden for you to carry and, of course, discontentedness.

Learn to look within yourself and your conduct rather than looking at others in comparison or measure.  Comparison is a mental virus which produces the symptoms of discontentment and feelings of inadequateness that can fuel the need for one to pursue, no matter how superficial, what someone else has, even if it goes against their nature.

“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”

~ Lao Tzu

Concentrate on yourself, live simply and be thankful for what you have – especially in regards the life you were given.

7 Comments

  1. Ah Lao-Tzu-my favorite. Contentment isn’t highly prized these days. Neither is happiness. People want drama, excitement, conflict, passion. They take more and more risks trying to have “adventures.” This statement by Montaigne would make absolutely no sense to them: “I am content to live in the world without busying myself with the world, to live a merely excusable life, a life that is a burden neither to myself nor to others.” A merely excusable life-imagine that! Well, it makes perfect sense to me.

  2. Jason Cooper says:

    Watch out for a review of ‘Tao Te Ching’ soon.

    As for Michel De Montaigne; I love him, and his book ‘The Complete Essays’ is one of my favorites – filled with so much wit, humor, humility and wisdom.

    Cheers NP!

  3. Fatima Da says:

    Great post Jason…”Comparison is a mental virus”..True! and cld be done so easily without the person knowing..A few years back my neighbour went out of her way to buy the same bedroom and dinner set as mine then called me to see how nice they looked in her house . This is a post I will love to send to her but have lost contact. Thanks for sharing

  4. Jason Cooper says:

    Thanks for visiting, Fatima, and for your personal experience of comparison.

    I cannot blame people for being discontented in a world which encourages one to upgrade something or the other every year so to keep up. But what also happened is that we have become a wasteful society by throwing away things that can still be used so to buy something new.

    We have to learn from the people who live in poorer nations and see the joy they still have with the few possessions they have.

  5. Shankha says:

    We learn from them, sometimes worship them, but do we really follow them?
    The contentment we get from their words are so full of mental satisfaction, still, in daily lives we just forget about them and do our daily works with full of frustration, dissatisfaction and discontentment.

    Thanks for the post, I didn’t know about him, but learned a lot from your post.

  6. Jason Cooper says:

    Thank you for passing by, Shanka, as well as your enlightening comment.

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