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Contentment and Gratitude in Practice
The refined mindfulness developed through whole-hearted engagement within the Eightfold Path brings the qualities of mind of contentment and gratitude in practice. Contentment and gratitude overcome all of the five hindrances to practice: desire, ill will, laziness, restlessness (discontent) and doubt.
A mind of contentment and gratitude is developed by acceptance and awareness of who and what we are as life occurs. It is only conditioned mind that creates the sense that we should be different than we are, and that our life experience should be different than it is.
The Buddha teaches that life is dukkha, loosely translated as stress, unsatisfactoriness, disappointment or suffering. The truth of dukkha is the first of the Four Noble Truths. The Second Noble Truth, clinging and desire cause dukkha, teaches that by eliminating desire and by developing contentment suffering will cease.
How do we end desire? This is the basic Buddhist teaching. The Buddha found that it was not skillful or effective to avoid all things which lead to desire arising, living the life of an acetic. Developing mindfulness of all manifestations of desire and the impermanence of all things will lead to mindfully ceasing desire. If all objects of desire are impermanent and lead to suffering, why continue to grasp for them?
Even more significant is the process of creating a self-identity based on likes and dislikes. By recognizing the transient nature of all things, we realize the futility of our attachments and aversions. We are able to see that our desire to acquire (or avoid) something we don’t presently have becomes the underlying motivation and intention of life. As all acquisitions and accomplishments are impermanent, there will always be an unsatisfactory experience to a life based on sensory fulfillment of an ego-personality.
The agitation brought on by desire creates an unsettled mind, constantly distracted by fulfilling its own insatiable needs rooted in ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths.)
Integrating the understanding of impermanence develops a deep awareness and appreciation of life as life occurs. Dispassionate mindfulness of life as life occurs without the demands of an ego-personality, of anatta, brings lasting peace and happiness.
Contentment with what occurs brings gratitude for human life and deep appreciation for the simple and profound understanding developed through the Eightfold Path. At its most basic, contentment and gratitude merge into a singular quality of mind free of desire.
By integrating all eight factors of the Eightfold Path into our lives, we put aside desire and aversion, further developing contentment and gratitude.
Shamatha-Vipassana meditation practiced within the framework of the Eightfold Path develops the deep concentration necessary to avoid the distraction brought by desire and interrupts conditioned mind’s need for constant sensory fulfillment. As concentration deepens the practical understanding of the impermanence of all objects, events, views, and ideas brings an end to self-referential clinging and a self defined by clinging to impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas.
A mind resting in the qualities of contentment and gratitude, at peace with what is occurring, is free of the need for additional distraction. Deep and abiding gratitude for life as life occurs becomes the ongoing experience of a life rooted in the wisdom, virtue, and concentration developed within the Eightfold Path.