We see a lot of people who have everything they need or want. However, contentment eludes them!

Contentment is a virtue that is often misunderstood. It is erroneously assumed to be passivity, laziness or something meant for spiritual people or those with low levels of motivation or few skills to succeed in life. In reality, contentment is not passivity, complacency or a false sense of peace.

Contentment is being mentally or emotionally satisfied, both within and without, with circumstances as they are. It is a willingness to accept circumstances, whatever they might be.

This attitude creates positive feelings of peace, calm, and happiness. In everyday life, a contented person is focused on the work at hand, and is relaxed. A contented state of mind produces faith in the self and self-respect, and gives us the conviction that all will be well, no matter what. As a result, our efficiency improves. A discontented person tends to fret over trifles. They may reach their goals; however, given their unsettled state of mind, they end up expending more energy to achieve their results.

Developing contentment takes practice. There might be aspects of my life that are wanting. Instead of brooding on the perceived lacunae, I can reflect on, appreciate, and further develop what I have. In this way I can create and sustain feelings of contentment and joy. This will enhance the quality of my thoughts, relationships, and work, and help me recognise that contentment is independent of my circumstances.

We see a lot of people who have everything they need or want. However, contentment eludes them; they lack inner peace and happiness. Some of the factors that stop us from being content are:

Comparing myself with others: No matter how successful I am, there will always be someone who has more than me. It could be more wealth, a better personality, more friends, or a vibrant social life. Forgetting that there will always be someone better off than me in some respect gives rise to envy. Constant thoughts of ‘why does he have more’ or other versions of this generate subtle, negative feelings of jealousy, resentment or dislike. In some cases, lack of contentment can make me submissive to others, which can be quite damaging to my self-respect. Parents never experience discomfort over the successes and good fortune of their children. Why? Because of love. The more I appreciate others, the easier it is for me to avoid envy.

Complaining about the self: Pessimism about the self will not let me grow. We do not need to look far to find someone worse off than us. But we seldom give much thought to all that we are blessed with. Having gratitude for all the things I have, helps to foster within me love for God and the recognition that I need to be more considerate towards those who are less fortunate than me.

It is said that the poorest man in the world is the one who has more than he needs, but feels that it is not enough. Material attainments do not bring lasting satisfaction. As soon as one desire is fulfilled, another is on its way. Learning to be happy with my circumstances even, as I work towards something better, ensures that no matter how long it takes to reach my goals, I enjoy who I am and what I have. It also saves me from greed, which can tempt me to use the wrong means to get what I want.

Practising contentment brings many other virtues. I become more patient, tolerant, sweet, and graceful. I am also able to face challenges with fortitude, adjust to different kinds of people and situations, and accept failures.

Contented souls are also a source of subtle support for others. Such are their vibrations that they can lift the spirits of a gloomy person just by their presence.

Regular practice of meditation, wherein I look within and recognise what I, the soul, really need, enables me to find and hold my contentment as a precious possession.

B.K. Geeta is a Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.