It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy that makes happiness. (Charles Spurgeon)
True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth (1 Timothy 6:6)
I realise that much of my time I am chasing my own happiness, and failing to find it. I think about things I don’t have with an “If only…” I’d like a different job, thanks, with better pay. I’d really like to win a trip cruising down the rivers of Europe. I’d like more energy and to be fit without actually having to exercise. I’d like a permanently healthy husband, perfectly behaved grandchildren and someone to cook me delicious meals on a regular basis. (Actually, I think my grandchildren are pretty much perfect!) Some of these are ridiculous, I know. Others, though, touch some deep desires in me.
This morning I have decided to try for contentment instead of happiness. And for me, this begins with deliberately and thoughtfully thinking about the something I am grateful for, then attempting to hold onto that for as much of the day as possible. So I took myself off for a barefooted beach walk. (For you northerners, that may not sound like much of an achievement. Here in southern Victoria, however, the temperature as I was walking was 11°C!)
There’s something special about bare feet. A sense of freedom and connection to the natural world, and the awareness of the soft sand caressing my soles. I was feeling intrepid and believing in summer even as my toes turned a bit purple, and started to ache.
As I walked I challenged myself with the following questions: Can I be happy with what I have, rather than longing for more or other or different? Can I be content with who I am? Honestly, I’m not sure yet. Can I practise gratitude, though? Yes!
So here is a list of things I was grateful for while sitting on the beach:
• Sitting on a beach! The sound of the ocean, the smell, the openness, the Pacific Gulls, bird prints on the sand, foam bubbles catching the sunlight
• A windproof jacket and warm clothes
• Time to think
• Knowing I could return home to breakfast and a warm shower
• And of course, cold toes!
I deliberately tried to keep my list small and specific. There are many, many other things – and more particularly people – for which my gratitude is constant, even if often unacknowledged. But if I can find gratitude in the details, then I believe contentment is closer to my grasp.
I have written ‘cold toes’ on my hand, so when I go about my day, I can be reminded of this one small thing that I am grateful for.
P.S. A few days later, and I’ve forgotten to practise gratitude at all. My best intentions often don’t go very far! So once again I’m reminding myself, and deliberately naming some of the things I’m thankful for. I’m about to write ‘warm fire’ on my hand.
What one thing would you choose today?