On the Practice of Contentment

suryadas chandiEarly in my spiritual life I discovered the practice of contentment. I’ve found that when I put my mind to being happy under any circumstance, I can weather the storms of life more or less unscathed.

Having lived through a challenging childhood, my goal as a young adult was to embrace the spiritual life and to put the past behind me. Through the practice of contentment and meditation, I’ve avoided some of the more difficult life challenges experienced by some of my siblings. None the less, throughout my adult life, I’ve experienced occasional bouts of sadness and melancholy.

In the recent preparation for taking my vows to join the Nayaswami order, I began the process of searching for hidden attachments, that I might work towards their dissolution. To my amazement, I soon discovered a strong attachment to the painful experiences of my childhood! Rather than freeing myself from these suppressed vortices of pain, I’d chosen to hold on to them tightly, wearing them as a kind of war-badge to honor to my earlier struggles. This attachment has led to a great deal of unnecessary suffering for myself and those closest to me.

In Affirmations for Self-Healing, Swami Kriyananda writes:

“Contentment means living to the fullest the good of every passing moment. Above all, it means living behind the present moment, in the Eternal Now.”

I’ve recently realized anew, the need to let go of the past and live in the present moment. To that end I’ve taken up the practice, as recommended by Swami Kriyananda, of visualizing a bonfire each night in meditation, and offering into it all attachments. As I offer up my attachment to past disappointments and future expectations, I find that the void is quietly filled with God’s timeless joy.

Each of us has a story to tell – one that has shaped our lives and helped us grow into the person we are today, but we must be careful not to identify too closely with these experiences.

We are not the culmination of our life experiences, nor are we the personality that has emerged from them. We are the changeless soul – Sat Chit Ananda; ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new Bliss. It is our job, as yogis, to offer up into the sacrificial fire anything that keeps us from realizing that Bliss which is our own true nature.

Paramhansa Yogananda wrote:

“Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.”

In Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda quoted the words of St. Francis de Sales: “A saint that is sad is a sad saint.”

May we all be blessed with ever-expanding joy as we travel the paths to becoming a happy saints.

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