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Real Joy, Right Now

Do you often hear yourself saying, "When such and such happens, then I'll be happy"? Why wait for happiness when it's available to you right now, at this moment?

By Sally Kempton

Step Two: Investigate Your Discontent

Feelings of dissatisfaction—no matter how much you'd like to lose them—should not be dismissed lightly. Any feeling of discontent contains a message, a built-in wake-up call. When you feel truly discontent, it's almost always because you're out of touch with your most authentic self and with the desires that come from your heart's core. To achieve lasting contentment, you must be willing to examine your own feelings of dissatisfaction, to trace them to their source.

It seems paradoxical that the journey toward contentment could start with giving yourself permission not to be content. But you don't change your state by resisting or running away from it any more than you get rid of unfulfilled desires just by telling yourself to give them up. To move on, you must first let yourself be fully where you are in this moment—even if where you are is frustrated, out of sorts, insecure, scared, and full of dissatisfaction, thwarted ambition, or anxiety. Usually, most people are afraid to do this, imagining that they'll end up wallowing in misery. But accepting your situation is very different from giving into self-pity. Unlike wallowing, this inner acceptance lets you relax the inner muscle that keeps trying to control the uncontrollable, and frees you from the terrible stress of feeling that you have to pretend everything is OK when you know it isn't, even if you can't say why.

To start the process, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Let the breath be an anchor you use to keep yourself steady as you begin to ride the waves of your feelings. Now think of something that brings up your feeling of dissatisfaction or discontent, of wanting something you can't have. Notice how it feels; see if you can find the tendrils of your own discontent in your mind, in your body. If you like, you can begin to ask yourself questions about your discontent: "What's behind that feeling of frustration? What's inside the sadness? What lies beneath the fear?" Observe what arises, simultaneously focusing on the breath. Don't expect that this exercise will have you smiling and cheerful in a moment. But you'll probably notice after a while that your feelings aren't static. They shift and change all by themselves, because that is the nature of feelings. Your discontent is not intractable.

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Reader Comments

joan kushner

why do you think that taking prozac gives one 'contenment'? it's simply not true.

shirley knudsen

Tjhank you for giving me some hope with your amazing article "Real Joy Right Now".
I am in a terribly dark place right now .Instead of my boys leaving "the nest" I had to leave my 3 teenage sons to follow my husband up the "corporate ladder to another town 200 miles away. Having just arrived my mother died suddenly of a heart attack, my brother died shortly after of bowel cancer and a short time my husband was out on his mountain bike and had a massive heart attack and died instantly. I didn't even get to say "good-bye to him". My 3 sons all live far away and I feel very alone.
I will work through what you have written and thank you once again for giving me hope.

Shirley Knudsen


What a fitting article. I claimed bankruptcy and lost my job all in one year and I am about to go on social assistance, if I qualify. As weird as it sounds, I am even afraid to say I am at peace. It is as if the universe gave me an opportunity to start over again and this time to make things right. I feel a sense of contentment at the moment, however, can only imagine a small voice in my head saying "how can you be so calm?" I respond to it by saying the universe shall provide.

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