In the small New Hampshire town where I grew up, I’m enjoying the last beautiful days of summer.
For the past week, I’ve been savoring simple pleasures: the sounds of birdsong, crickets, and rustling leaves; the feel of the warm sun and cool breeze on my skin; the play of sunlight and shadow on the lawn—the beauty of a summer day.
At a cafe downtown, I drink coffee and gaze out the window at the maple trees and park benches lining the bank of the river. I find myself thinking of Emily, the heroine of Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town, who returns (from death) to her small New Hampshire town to witness one day of her life.
With the awareness of impermanence that death gives her, Emily sees everything she has taken for granted as precious—the white picket fence, her mother’s tenderness, the goodness of her loved ones…. She also has the poignant realization: “We didn’t have time to look at one another.”
This savoring of the beauty, wonder, and deliciousness of life is a portal into a more clear and awake awareness.
Wherever the mind delights, let your attention linger there
Possibly my favorite Awareness practice, from an ancient text of Yoga, is to “Rest your mind where it finds contentment.”
Or, as Christopher Wallis translates the verse: “Wherever the mind delights, let your attention linger there (in the felt sense of that rapture). In any such experience, the true nature of supreme bliss may shine forth.”
Even if “supreme bliss” seems aspirational, know that according to the sages of Yoga, our true nature is bliss (being-consciousness-bliss). When we rest our mind where it finds contentment, we are conditioning our awareness, training it to be peaceful and spacious. Such an awareness is more likely to open into and rest in meditative states.
For friends who want more contentment and bliss in their lives, try this:
- Slow down. Cultivate the habit of pausing and noticing what’s going on inside you and all around you.
- Get out of your head and into your body. Bring your awareness to the soles of your feet or to your heart center. Notice the sensations in your body.
- Enjoy the breath.
- Start to notice when you feel content and linger in the contentment.
When we inhale and exhale and pause… to experience with our senses, the fresh air, a latte, a hot bath, the feeling of the earth under our feet, the breath itself, we are more fully alive. Our awareness is more free (of conditioned thinking) and we are closer to our truest Self as being, consciousness, and bliss.
To increase your ability to be present enough to rest in contentment, it’s very helpful to cultivate daily yoga and meditation practices. Feel free to reach out for help getting started if the prospect of one-on-one instruction via Zoom or Skype appeals.
(Written in August of 2017. Revised in September of 2020.)