By Cindy Wigglesworth
The "Dao" (or "Tao") of
something is the natural way of it…its true nature. The Dao of
life consists of ebbs and flows, like the yin and yang symbol.
Within the dark is the seed of light. Within the light is the
seed of dark. And in the ever-flowing beautiful relationship
between opposites we find our reality. In this philosophy it is
up to us to find the natural way of things. And once we find it
we can live a life of contentment and, paradoxically, high
So what is the true nature of "contentment"? And, as
task-minded Westerners we then ask - what do I need to do to get
Contentment is defined as "happiness with one's situation
in life." A person is contented if they are "satisfied
or showing satisfaction with things as they are" (www.thefreedictionary.com).
So contentment seems to involve having an accepting attitude
toward whatever is occurring. A prerequisite for contentment
appears to be a willingness to let things be - rather than
trying to make them be different. It appears to be a state of
nonattachment to outcomes - having no expectations for how
things "should be." It is a state of not
"shoulding" (smile) on anyone or anything. Therefore
Rule #1 is "No SHOULDING!"
So a peaceful, happy, steady state can be accomplished when we
relinquish all "shoulds." How simple that sounds!
The Dao of the world is both simple and complex. It is complex
in that everything seems to involve an ever-changing balance
between opposites: good and evil; pain and joy; health and
sickness; and so on. We feel like a ball being batted between
many giant tennis racquets. How do stop being the victim of this
"back and forth" pressure? The simple answer is, to
choose to see the back and forth as perfect just as it is.
"Go with the flow" and smile. Smile at the good. Smile
at the bad. Just smile. This is the Dao of it. So simple…yet
not easy to do!
Furthermore, what if things are clearly NOT as they "should
be." What if we perceive great injustice and cruelty in the
world? What if passively accepting "what is" just
causes more people to suffer? Maybe it causes me to suffer
injury, death or humiliation? What is the Dao of Contentment
The Dao of Contentment is to smile and accept what is, and
then act or not act, without concern for anything other than our
own good intention and best effort. In this way we can be
happy with Life's circumstances at all times…even when we seek
to change them. What does that mean?
When we aren't happy there is one of two causes. One is that we
are unhappy due to an ego-based expectation of how things should
be…yet no one is truly being abused. In this case no action is
required. The second possibility is that we are unhappy because
we perceive harm is being done to ourselves or others and we
feel we must set boundaries and fight against such a wrong. What
is The Dao of Contentment in this second situation?
Discerning the source of our discontent is the challenge. The
experience of many wisdom teachers would say that we can
learn to listen deeply to inner wisdom (what some might call the
Divine) and thereby determine the right time and way to act.
Like all things in the yin-yang balance of the world, there is a
time for action and a time for non-action.
Let us say it is a time for action - how can we stay content in
such a situation? How can we fight a battle and be at peace. A
great wisdom teaching, the Bhagavad-Gita addresses exactly this
situation. We can choose to be grateful to Life for bringing us
this perfect opportunity to discern wisely and act from love. We
can dedicate our action to the highest and best outcome for all
concerned. What we cannot do is walk away. We have been placed
at this crossroads and we see some wrong taking place. So we
honor Rule #1 - except when we can't.
Thus we take action when it is needed. We take it decisively.
And then we let it go. We release the outcomes to the Universe.
As the Beatles said, "Let it be."
And through this attitude of mind and heart we can remain
content in the midst of all things. Content while doing. Content
while not doing. Content in good times and in bad. We can strip
away our attachments to what is unimportant. And we can act
appropriately on what is important. We can feel the energies
within us rise and fall. We can discern when to move and when to
wait. We can act from Love and Inner Wisdom. And then we can let
it be. And all the while we can smile.
How can we learn to hear this inner wisdom? We can develop this
ability by dutifully following any of the meditative,
contemplative, centering traditions. It takes disciplined effort
- until it is finally effortless. If you are of a faith
tradition, drill deeply into the mystical traditions of that
faith and you will find this inner voice. If you prefer a
secular path you can choose a non-theistic meditative practice.
I recommend combining any of these mystical, meditative
practices with therapy. I believe it takes most of us several
years of therapy to really quiet the voices of our family of
origin baggage and to work through our own ego inflations or
neuroses. Therapy and inner spiritual work can bring the inner
voice of eternal wisdom…the voice of The Dao… into our
In the end we can learn to live with "the serenity to
accept the things we cannot change; the courage to change the
things we can; and the wisdom to know the difference" (the
Serenity Prayer). May you find your natural flow and maintain
contentment all the years of your life!
Cindy Wigglesworth is the President of
Conscious Pursuits, Inc. Her mission is to help organizations
and individuals integrate their spiritual and work lives. She is
the Chair of the International Spirit at Work Award Selection
Committee for 2004. Her website is www.consciouspursuits.com.