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To Find Contentment, Forgo Distraction

Distraction is a temporary fix to a lack of peace within.

Source: ID: 56084611 Scott Griessel/Dreamstime
Source: ID: 56084611 Scott Griessel/Dreamstime

For those of you reading this who have spent weeks, if not months, in quarantine, you might miss or have missed your regular life. Going to the movies, out for dinner, bowling with friends, or running into a store to pick up something have all become memories for many people. You might talk about getting back to “normal,” to the busyness of regular life. Rushing here and there, while formerly might have been stressful, is now where your heart and mind want to be (along with your body) just so you are doing something.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the downtime many people have been forced into thanks to the COVID-19 virus, it is that distraction ruled most people’s lives. Having something to do, somewhere to go, someone to see, and something you needed to “be” is what constituted normal. Now admittedly in many cases, you might live in a small apartment and be climbing the walls, or maybe you don’t enjoy your family and are tired of spending day in and day out with them. Maybe you are a single parent who needs to work and there is nowhere open for your young child to go. There are many, many scenarios of living through quarantine that have caused pain and suffering for people. However, there is also a lesson that could be learned from living with so much downtime.

Distraction does not equal peace. Distraction does not bring contentment. Distraction is a temporary fix to a lack of peace within. When you rush here and rush there and believe everything you do is necessary and important, your mind is always focused on what is next. You are rarely in one place—you are moving so quickly from thing to thing that you aren’t able to “bloom where you are planted,” as the saying goes. Distractions give your mind something to focus on, to ponder, to plan and to consider, and most importantly to think about what’s coming next. What they don’t give you is a resting place. They don’t give your mind the ability to be in the now and enjoy whatever might be happening in the moment.

This virus has taught us many things, but one thing could be the importance of staying where you are in body, mind, and spirit and learning to be OK with wherever it is that you are at any given point in time. In Biblical terms, Paul called this “being content in whatsoever state I am in” (Philippians 4:11). If you are not comfortable with the Bible, there are similar sayings in many different teachings; Thich Nhat Hanh said, “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”

The problem with most lives is that rushing is the norm. The next thing, the plan, the future, and what’s coming requires the most focus. Of course, then there are the people who live in the past—the things you did, or could have done, or enjoyed doing. The only place there is peace is in the now; what’s happening in this moment, in this place in time. Rather than a return to normal once all restrictions are lifted, what if you used this time to examine how much you enjoy your distractions? What if you were to become more aware of each step you take and how to enjoy the step itself instead of where it is leading you? What if you practiced contentment with what you have, instead of planning where you are headed and how you will get there?

It’s great to have goals. It’s a positive thing to learn new ideas. Each person who can should reach for the stars and become all they can be. But doing these things doesn’t mean you should have the attitude of “I’ll be content when ... This happens, or that happens.” It means enjoying the journey. You attach the word “normal” to everything you do. You become watchful and interested in each and every moment. Most importantly, before you rush to do something or change something or get somewhere, you stop. You consider where you are and what might be positive, peaceful, and beneficial about the moment. You learn to look inward instead of outward to find circumstances that will finally bring you the peace and contentment you have been searching for.

The good news is that the contentment lives inside of you. You just need to eliminate the distractions in order to find it.