“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
i’m not necessarily talking about material things. i’m not talking about the things that you and i own. or the things that we wished we owned. i’m talking about something a little deeper than that. i’m talking about what we have inside of us.
we try so often to fill that space inside of us called “happiness” with things that are outside of us. we think that if we live here, or travel there, or buy this, or own that, then we will finally be happy. but, it doesn’t work like that. not at all. at least that’s not how i have experienced it.
the thing that brings us happiness is not outside of us, but inside. it is the choice to decide to be free. for, as i once read, someone, somewhere, said that we can always choose to be free. even if we feel (or are) enslaved and trapped. if that weren’t true, all the martyrs throughout history would have never achieved martyrdom. though they found themselves in prisons and facing death, they chose to be free. they chose to listen to their soul and to be content with their lives & their decisions to be faithful to themselves, regardless of their outside situations. they lived the phrase, “no one can steal your joy.” and, of course, there are hundreds, even thousands of heroes today who choose to be free, even in the midst of violence, war, hunger, homelessness, and sickness.
one year i met person after person who lived what we would call difficult lives, but who seemed to be completely free and at peace. these people just came into my life at random times and in random places over the course of that year. on the street corner. or outside the church where i worked. in a bookstore in anchorage, alaska. they were all homeless people, on journeys of their own. with a mission. to help others or to walk across the usa or to find themselves. when i met each of them, they were all looking for a little nourishment. and, as i sat with them, they each had tons to teach me about what it really means to be happy, or content. because they all were. their lives were not easy, but simple. they lived in the middle of difficult situations and faces challenges every day, and yet they were content. they relied on the kindness of others. they wandered. they prayed. they shared. they were at peace.
am i that brave? am i that content with simplicity? perhaps not. but, it is something to strive for… contentment.
however, at least i know that, while i love to travel and believe that there are some places where i might be better suited to live than others, my happiness, my ability to be content and at peace, does not rely on my outside surroundings, where my home is, or the things i own. because truly, i don’t need that much to survive (as evidenced by the empty apartment i am living in right now).
my happiness, my peace, my ability to be content relies solely on my choices and my connection to my inner life. do i choose to truly live life and be alive? do i choose to take time to listen to what my soul is whispering to me? do i choose to focus on the positive? do i choose to spread good energy? do i choose to see every day as an adventure and every moment as something sacred? it’s all up to me. and it doesn’t matter where i am.
so i chose to do this…
i had written about wanting a new tattoo in my guest post over at for the love of wanderlust. and i really wanted to get it in sweden before i moved to the states. well, since time was running out, it just so happened that i was able to get it yesterday. yippee!
this new piece of art not only symbolizes my ever-growing thirst for travel and my wanderlust-y tendencies. but, it is also a reminder, a symbol of my true guide… my soul. each time i look at it, i will be reminded that i am never truly lost, as long as i know who i am. as long as i let my soul, my heart, the spirit guide me.
and like the other tattoos that i have, my compass has instantly become part of my story told in symbols. representing different places in the world, and different phases and ideas in my life. i may have grown and changed in my thoughts, but the foundational belief or idea behind each tattoo i have remains a steadfast, core truth in my life. and it represents a very specific time and memory and belief.
so, contentment? it’s not an elusive thing. it’s a conscious thing. it being mindful and aware of all that we already have… within us. our souls are our guides to contentment and inner peace. it is a life-long journey and a daily practice of just being present.
i wish you each of you some moments of contented peace today, in the midst of the hustle & bustle of your life. may you find some peace & feel loved even in the middle of the hectic moments.