Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This past weekend I was visiting with my sister and her family, and not only did I have the opportunity to spend time with beloved family members, but then I was given another—unexpected—gift…

My sister teaches a Sunday School class for young people, and as she was preparing for her next day’s lesson, she came to me with a question: “I want to speak to them about contentment, but I don’t know exactly how to explain what that means. How do you tell them about something that is probably only a vague notion for them?”

I was intrigued by this question, and I went off on my own to consider it for a while. I thought, “Well, “contentment” is quite a profound concept, and maybe a lot of adults don’t fully understand what it means. How does one put it into plain language so that even a child could comprehend it?”

I could see the possible context for dealing with this issue: these young people live in a materialistic culture with pressure from all sides to acquire more and more stuff, and reminders of contentment are few and far between. I also knew that deep discussions about contentment would probably not be going on in most households, and that it is the tendency of people—of all ages—to be more focused on what they don’t have as opposed to what they innately possess.

Normally when we hear the word “contentment,” we turn our attention to the things that are meant to bring contentment. These things are different for different people, but the list might start with an attractive and loving romantic partner, a beautiful home, satisfaction of desires, abundance, safety, security, material comfort, respect and acclaim. But the more I pondered my sister’s question, the more it became clear to me that there was evidence of contentment all around, but that it often went unrecognized because it did not necessarily have to do with any of those things.

I happen to know many people who have hardly any of the things that I have listed, who nevertheless have the obvious presence of contentment in their lives. What is it these people “have” that contents them, even if their contentment wasn’t in the having of anything?

What I see in these wonderful people is a vast openness to all experience, an enormous capacity for letting things be as they are. They are active, engaged, energetic, intelligent, skilled, joyous and serviceful, but at the same time they reside in a place of complete rest. The constant barrage of thoughts, emotions, sensations and experiences seems to be going on the same for them as for anyone else, but they are not carried away by the flow. Their attention is not on themselves and all of their personal concerns; rather, they maintain a profound interest in a place of great depth and peace that includes everyone and everything.

The key ingredient to this contentment seems to be the recognition of a place in themselves that has no place—an unchanging essence, a natural state, awareness, clarity, open intelligence, a place of peace—call it by whatever name. There is in them a moment by moment choice to return to that place of peace over and over, for short moments, again and again.

When distractions occur—and even if the distractions continue for a while—the choice is eventually made to return to that place of peace. They sustain themselves with reminders so that the choice is not obscured: they seek out community with this as the basis, they commit themselves to reaching out for support when needed and they refresh the commitment by reading, listening to and investigating unerring teachings that speak unwaveringly about what is true.

So, in the end, what would I want to tell those young people in the Sunday School class? I would want to stand before them and be able to say with the utmost confidence, “Dear ones, you have nothing to fear. Everything you need, you have. Naturally occurring wisdom and well-being that will never leave you come from acknowledging the truth within yourselves, for short moments, many times, until the acknowledgement becomes spontaneous and continuous.”

So, this was the gift I received: knowing that this is so for myself, knowing that it is true for others, and knowing that this simple truth can be communicated clearly and easily. This gift, this contentment, is our greatest possession.


  1. I would like to shoot in my opinion that, contentment is not a possession, nor could it arise from introducing items/exterior is simply the fact that one decides to be satisfied with whatever one has. Do you not agree? :)

  2. Hi scott, this would be a beautiful truth if it were accurate and reflective. However few of the 6 billion inhabitants have the internal space or necessary safety and provision to engage the energy required to establish a practice as you suggest. What appears on the one hand as a beautiful truth is a naive and short sighted.
    When you define all viewpoints as equal you take up an extreme view point of equal-ness, that physical conditions have no value, or the same value, and all that is required is to recognise the constant space of phenonema. Try to tel tht to the raped children, the adults with no clean water and food, to those being tortured for their skin colour, to those internally tortured by mental illness, to those hooked on drugs, sex, alcohol as they simply cannot face their experience. This misunderstanding that conditions are not importnt, that all material appearences are equal is wishful thinking.
    Like you I wish it were true but when we really face everything as it is we can summon the courage to recognise our bias, our delusion and that life is a mystery and rf more complex than our simple solutions.

  3. Thank you Scott, that was beautiful :-)

  4. No reply to your comments?!???

  5. Dear Friends, It would be nice to reply to the thoughtful comments that have been offered on the Contentment blog entry.
    As regards the first anonymous entry from Nov. 16, in using the term "possession," yes, of course contentment is not literally something that we possess, but one could also use the word greatest "gift" or "endowment," but the point is that this contentment is to be most valued.
    As to the second anonymous entry, yes, of course, there are many, many trying circumstances all over the world, but I do not agree that what I am describing is not applicable in those circumstances. In whatever circumstance we are, we want to be able to rely on our greatest strength. What I have described in my blog is not a practice where we go off somewhere apart from all the movings and shakings of the world. Rather, it is the stance of total reliance on our greatest strength. How else would we want to face the tremendous challenges that a harsh world can present?
    Also, to conclude, it is my preference that we all use our full names and identify ourselves completely when we post. That way we hold ourselves accountable, and I just think it is a good policy overall when communication is going back and forth.
    Thank you so much for your interest and comments.
    Scott Morrow
    Davidson, NC
    Nov. 20, 2011

  6. This gift of self reliance-- a force to carry us into society where we can contribute in a positive way has roots in a loving and supportive home environment.
    I believe that is what is missing in most of the world.