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January 4, 2017

Cultivating contentment

Cultivating contentment

By Marguerite Jill Dye

I am ready to take angel messages to heart and make a conscious decision to focus on the positive and create more happiness in and around me in 2017. I announced this to a longtime friend who sighed, reached up to heaven in gratitude, and silently mouthed “Hallelujah!”
It’s about time, I agree, because I know that deep inside, our natural state is joy and enthusiasm, “god within.” We allow too many of life’s challenges, unsettling situations, and people to steal our joie de vivre. But as my friend said, “Happiness is a choice.”
My mother was a firm believer in the power of positive thinking and the power of a smile. I’ve learned to cherish smiles, too. Did you know that just putting a smile on your face increases your endorphins and raises your vibration? When you’ve felt blue, have you noticed how even a stranger’s unexpected, radiant smile can alter the course of your day?
Another powerful happiness creator is sharing a kind word or deed. When we think of a compliment, putting it into words might bless someone’s day. Acting out of kindness and compassion could change a day or a life, for when “each one, reach one” is put into action, its effects know no limits. By raising the joy of another, ours is elevated too and our collective contentment grows.
A reality television personality who requires and receives constant attention has helped hook us on the latest updates and tweets in a relentless stream of appalling news. I read that the new compulsion many of us have developed of sending and receiving Facebook messages and tweets releases dopamine into our systems as if we were taking antidepressant drugs. It is highly addictive and has negative repercussions in interpersonal relationships and communication. When cell phones and messages interrupt our meetings or meals with family and friends it gives the distinct impression that those we are with are less important than our apparatus. In the guise of keeping in touch we are distancing ourselves from our closest ones.
I have also come to realize that I can live without many of the unnerving Facebook news alerts I was receiving and sharing that left me in a constant state of distress. Although they may create a dopamine rush, it felt more like they were depleting my adrenaline with a fight or flight response. I have “unfriended” some of those sources in an effort to cut down on the stress and time spent on social media. There are enough battles to fight without virtual ones.
During and since the election process we have been inundated with negative messages and many fake news reports but they’ve had a real effect. The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship we’ve attended in Florida just found fascist signs posted around the building crediting a fascist website; the other day on the interstate an angry young man who was driving erratically nearly ran us off the road. Although we were traveling a little over the speed limit, he honked and swerved in front of us, gestured obscenely then pointed his hand like a weapon in the rearview mirror before speeding up twice and jamming on his brakes to teach us a lesson. His Trump bumper sticker was our only clue… We’d never experienced such dangerous rage on the road.
I feel a responsibility to stay informed and take action whenever I can, but expending so much energy in frustration and dis-ease is counterproductive and can have other repercussions. There are better ways to stay informed and make mental and physical health the priority because the effects of stress on health are clear.
Whenever we limit stress in our lives, we choose health and cultivate contentment, which makes us more effective agents of positive change in our lives, our families, communities, and the world.
“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship,” the Buddha is credited as saying.
Marguerite Jill Dye is an author and artist who lives in the Green Mountains of Vermont and on Florida’s Gulf Coast with her husband, Duane.

 

Chenrezig Buddha embodies the compassion of all Buddhas and the potential for compassion in all beings in traditional Tibetan Buddhist Thangka, hand-painted and embroidered silk.

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