Sundays are Spirituality Day here at Taking it to the Streets
“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy.” – Lao Tzu
How little we value contentment! One of my women’s circles got together to usher in Spring and our group leader, Anne, led a meditation on “loving what we love” with talking about contentment – how we waltz right over it as we focus on our goals (what we want) or complaints (what we don’t want). I think contentment is focusing joyfully on what we have.
Today my friend Annemarie and I were searching for tax returns for her recently deceased partner. I’m the executor of Becky’s estate and so I have to file taxes. It wasn’t a very fun task, but a necessary one. Amidst the jumble of financial papers we were trying to sift through I found a wee scrap of paper with a great quote about contentment (the quote I was looking for when I found the Lao Tzu quote). The gist of it was to be happy with what is. It kind of felt like a little wink from Becky amidst the piles of receipts and tax forms.
I’ve noticed that joy and contentment have been unlikely yet insistent companions since Becky’s death. The suddenness and shock of her departure – way too young, happening way too quickly – awakened me from my slumber. Life IS! I AM!
Contentment is more subtle, less voluble, less passionate, more serene. It’s like a burbling undercurrent that rides under those Bigger Emotions. It’s where I go so much more easily now, realizing that the sturm und drang are distractions.
I’ve thought of that Zen story about the monk being chased by a tiger who gets chased to the edge of the cliff. In the gorge below are hungry animals (lions? I can’t recall) who will surely eat him – at his back in the tiger. As he begins his fall from the edge of the cliff he grabs on to a tree limb, and, suspended above the hungry animals finds a perfectly ripe strawberry – and he revels in the taste of the strawberry.
I’m so not there yet. And I’m not sure what Lao Tzu is up to with his “non-being is the greatest joy” – but the other part of his axiom rings quite true to me. Watching friends get sick and die, I realize hourly that health IS the greatest possession – no doubt there.
And I’m really coming to befriend contentment. Ya, wild joy and passion are more exciting. But don’t let contentment’s quiet demeanor make you pass her by – I think really? She’s the real deal.
It’s really, really really good to be alive. And knowing it? That’s the best.