Contentment Is the Supreme Virtue
March 6, 2012
Whatever comes of itself, let it come, but I am ever content in my inner heart.
“When you can be happy in the present,” Paramhansa Yogananda said, “then you have God.” I experienced this truth one day after losing my way in the mountains.
It was late spring, and snow still covered the Sierra Nevada high country. While hiking back to my car, I went down the wrong side of a ridge and into unfamiliar territory.
When I realized my mistake, there wasn’t enough daylight left to retrace my steps. I didn’t have a coat so it was imperative that I get to lower elevation and warmer, snow-free ground. I knew that continuing my present course would eventually bring me to a road—if not that night, certainly by the morning.
Fortunately, in my early twenties I had learned in dramatic fashion the importance of staying centered in oneself. In Death Valley, friends and I were staying with the chief naturalist at the national park. I went for a long walk late one afternoon, going much farther than I intended. I realized that I couldn’t make it home before dark.
I wasn’t afraid, but I was embarrassed that people might have to look for me, so I began to jog back.
Twinkling lights soon appeared from the park staff’s residences; I was still miles away. Then the night enveloped me, making it impossible to see my immediate surroundings. I had traveled cross-country, so there wasn’t a trail to follow. I continued to run toward the far, distant lights.
Suddenly, the sandy, pebbly soil gave way to hard rock. I immediately stopped; solid rock, I knew, might mean a cliff ahead. Peering into the darkness, I inched forward and tossed a rock in front of me. It took the stone too long to hit the ground: a rocky precipice was just ahead.
I realized how close I had come to disaster and was glad that I’d been paying attention. After feeling and searching with my feet, I found a steep ravine and carefully made my way down the thirty-foot high cliff face.
After descending the rocky precipice—and breathing a sigh of relief—I had a revelation: I couldn’t afford to worry about inconveniencing others. I needed to concentrate completely on my current surroundings and situation. Once I become clear on this, the rest of the trip was uneventful.
Now, descending the unknown ridge in the Sierra Nevada, I drew on my previous experience in Death Valley and felt completely relaxed. I realized that I might have some challenges ahead and may be bivouacking for the night. I focused my mind on God and offered myself into His hands. Knowing that fear and imagination often cause unwise decisions, I was determined to remain calm and centered in the presence of God. As I did so, I found my walk becoming more and more joyful, even though the daylight was nearly gone and the outcome uncertain.
Well after sundown I reached a large lake and began walking along its shore. When it was almost dark, I saw in the distance two men fishing from a boat. I wanted to ask them where I was but since yelling such a long way would disturb my inner peace, I kept on walking, feeling God’s presence, which was only thing that seemed important.
When I came to a small cove, I saw another a fishermen on the far bank. Now I was able to ask him in a calm, normal voice the name of the lake. “Spaulding,” he replied, as he and his other fisherman friends walked away. I was familiar with this lake; I now knew where I was.
Minutes later, as I cautiously made my way in the dark, I heard one of the fisherman ask, “Why don’t you know the name of the lake?” To his direct question, I calmly explained how I had come to the lake by mistake. The man exclaimed, “But your car is twelve miles away, and it’s nighttime! We’ll drive you there.”
My fisherman’s friends disagreed with this plan, and I couldn’t blame them. I was feeling so free and blissful inside that I didn’t want the night to end. I sat in the backseat of their car, comfortably letting things unfold, as they discussed quite energetically whether to drive me or not. I was totally fine with whatever they decided.
My friend and advocate eventually convinced his friends to drive me to my car. While driving my own car home that night, I felt deeply grateful to God for helping me experience the joy of accepting life’s circumstances and not allowing time-consciousness to destroy my serenity.
Thoughts on Contentment and the Eternal Now by Swami Kriyananda
- The more non-attached you can be in yourself the freer you will find yourself to be. The more you completely accept the present, the more energy will be released for you to enjoy the present.
- How much is lost in life by people who perennially wish things other than they are! Who complain unceasingly, and tell themselves that the world owes them more than it is giving them!
- Only by living properly right now, at the changeless center of the moment, can we arrive at that point where we exercise complete control over our lives.
- Contentment has been said to be the supreme virtue. Contents means living behind the present moment.
- In God, no time exists; there is only now. The illusion of space and time is produced by movements of thought [restlessness]. Without movement, Absolute Consciousness alone would remain.
Paramhansa Yogananda, in his poem Samadhi, stated:
Present, past, future: no more for me, but ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere!
Through stillness we experience our unity with creation. The following simple nature meditation can help you unite more with the life and beauty around you.
Dear friend: Please share with us a practice that helps you live joyfully absorbed in the eternal present.
May you always live and rest in the Eternal Now.
In divine joy,