Discontent vs Contentedness

QUESTION FROM A STUDENT:

There is something I am confused about:

On the one side people say, you have all you need in yourself..you are whole and complete. That is my experience as well. I have come so far with this that I have moments where I am happy or see myself totally happy/content/..  , it doesn’t matter what is happening outside of me. After the principle: I am who I am; even if life is not working smoothly for me, I am still the same person, with or without stress, which means I can be happy whenever I decide to. I am whole.

But on the other hand, we(other people, including me) seem to want to set up our environment in comfortable ways. For example, we want to be surrounded by ‘comfortable/pleasant’ people. But we don’t really need that, do we, when we can be happy anyway within ourselves, or? I am so confused about what is really necessary for balance (especially regarding people): do I need good people around me who help me to feel ‘good’ or do I just work on being happy in myself?

I know…maybe it is about balance between the two, but still…I am confused. what are your thoughts to that? How much is it really necessary to control/influence our enviroment if we can be happy anyway(not that this is easy to achieve:))?

MY RESPONSE:

The answer is BOTH- work on being happy within yourself and seek the company of people who help you feel happy! We are co-creators: set your intention and seek out that which brings you joy, but balance this with surrender. We can’t control everything, neither should we, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seek to control nothing at all. 
There is a time for surrendering and going with the flow, and there is a time for controlling, intending, willing and directing your life and your circumstances. Mastery lies in learning to discern what is appropriate when, in each unique situation. It is not appropriate to surrender completely all the time and be like a leaf on the wind. Neither is it appropriate to continually push and pull at the river of life- all that resisting and forcing can be exhausting, useless and messy. Applying appropriate amounts of will and surrender in each situation simply takes practice- we get better at judging what is appropriate with experience. There are no mysterious secrets here- no one law or rule that applies in every situation, just trial and error and learning what works for you.
 
Good spirituality is full of paradox. What I have learned is to think AND/BOTH, rather than EITHER/OR. This way, we find balance and rise above what seems like a paradox.
Be happy and contented with who you are and what you have, AND seek to bless your life with more beauty, grace and joy. There is no reason why you cannot have more of what makes you happy. I believe we can be contented and still seek improvements.
If you seek the company of others BECAUSE you don’t like your own company, then maybe you have a problem, but aside from this, I can’t see what is wrong with wanting to have happy/pleasant experiences and people around us. It’s a matter of self-love. You can be contented with yourself and still seek the abundant blessings and growth that come from being in relationships. Love yourself enough to seek fulfilling, rewarding, enjoyable relationships with other people. You might not NEED them (ie you can live without them and still be contented), but why shun them when they are available to you?
If for some reason, I had to live by myself without any human contact, I would still be contented. I would have heart-warming (sometimes challenging) relationships with nature, peace, stillness, gardening, cooking, creativity and myself. I prefer human contact to none at all, but I don’t need it to be contented or to like myself and my life.
Be careful with absolutes, or black and white thinking, when it comes to spiritual laws, philosophy and advice. 
 
We don’t have to be angels or saints who are always perfectly contented. I think there are degrees of contentedness and degrees of discontent and a well-lived life has a balance of the two. There is no reason why you can’t feel and express some dissatisfaction from time to time and seek change. Our discontent tells us what isn’t working for us. This inspires changes and growth and rebalancing. If you were absolutely contented, would you ever seek change and growth?
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude and look for the blessings in your life, even when things seem difficult or negative. This will help you be contented without forcing it, or making it fake. 
Be careful not to repress your discontent. If you repress your discontent, you won’t hear it and you won’t be able to respond to it by making positive changes sooner rather than later. Quite often, repressed discontent can emerge in a more insidious form later eg resentment and self-sabotage.
 
Instead of judging yourself for being discontent, ask yourself:
Have I considered the bigger picture?
Am I making mountains out of molehills?
Does it really matter?
How would I feel if I just let it go?
If you still feel discontent after asking yourself these questions, ask yourself:
 
What can I do to improve this situation, relationship, etc?
What might be the potential cost of taking action?
Is it worth it?
If it is, have a go at improving your situation.
If it isn’t worth it, or you try to improve the situation and it nothing changes…
THEN it is time to come back to being content, even if you have to fake it until you make it.
Remember, everything has hidden beauty, if you look deep enough.
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