What is Contentment Anyway?

A bridge ending in the deep waters of a vast lake with blue sky overhead.
If we want to find contentment, we will surely have to travel into the unknown.

What is this elusive thing called contentment? Contentment is defined as “a state of happiness and satisfaction” (google.com). Its definition and use has remained relatively unchanged for over 200 years, and it seems that while we know the definition of the word, very few of us have the experience of the state of contentment.

I have had many of the experiences of contentment: the sense of fulfillment at the birth of my children, the happiness of seeing my grandchildren at play, the ease and comfort of a warm fire and a cup of cocoa, the peace and serenity that comes from sitting on a hilltop overlooking the Green Mountains, and even the equanimity and serenity that is achieved from a 45 minute silent sitting meditation.

What I am noticing these days is how fleeting this peace can be, how easily my peace seems to be taken from me as soon as I engage with others using the current paradigm of achievement and competition. I am seeing how I need to change my paradigm if I am to keep my peace, and I am wondering how our culture would change if we could all aspire to maintain a state of equanimity and serenity. What would happen to the drive to accumulate material possessions? What would happen when we stop imposing our will for success onto our children? What would happen when we no longer see achievement as the hallmark of success in the human experience? What would happen to the Earth, what would happen to us?