We live in a culture which insists we need something more. However much we have, it is never enough. If only we had a little more something, we would be content.

Someone sent me an email this morning that included the provocative challenge:

Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don’t want to have to restart my collection…again.

The spiritual tradition of the desert teaches that, if we cannot be content with what we have, we will never be content with anything we might gain. Our addiction to more, better, bigger, faster, is an insatiable monster consuming everything in its path and always returning hungry.

In the desert, the mystics discovered that the less they had, the more contentment they experienced. The temptation to accumulate had vanished.

A wealthy man traveled a great distance to visit the brothers in the desert. He brought gold to the priest of the desert and asked him to distribute it among the brothers. The priest said, “The brothers do not need your gold.”

But the wealthy man insisted on leaving his gold for the brothers in a basket in the porch of the church.

The priest announced to the monks, “Whoever is in need may help himself to the gold.” No one touched it; some did not even look at it.

The priest said to the wealthy man, “God has accepted your offering. Go now and give your gold to the poor.” And the man went away greatly edified.

Contentment is a function of internal conditions; it never comes from external circumstance. Paul wrote to the Philippians

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. (Philippians 4:11,12)

Paul’s external circumstances made no difference to his internal reality. He had discovered the source of freedom. He lived in contentment regardless of how impoverished his external conditions might be.

When his disciples expressed concern that Jesus needed to eat, he said to them,

“I have food to eat that you do not know about.” (John 4:32)

The food that nourished Jesus is food that never ran out. It did not leave him hungry again. Most of the things we think will feed us are like junk food. They bring momentary satisfaction but soon leave us hungry again.

Jesus said,

“it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven…. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will ever be thirsty.” (John 6:32,35)

The true bread that has the capacity to really nourish us functions in the secret invisible realm of the spirit. It is experienced in the quiet, deep inner spaces of the human heart. This true food is not flashy, aggressive or showy. It is simple, gentle, and subtle.

When we cease eating food that has no real nourishment in the hopes of finding satisfaction, a space begins to open within our being where we are able to experience the true food that is the presence of Christ.

When we stop our frantic pursuit of more, we discover that all we need is right here, right now. We do not need to go anywhere or gain anything in order to uncover the deep secret of true contentment. We need only to stop rushing after food that does not feed.

Stand still. Open to the quiet. Be present to the reality of your life as it presents itself in this moment. Sense the deep strong mystery that pulses at the heart of life. Trust the pure holy strength that resides in your being.

These are the disciplines of contentment. You do not need to go anywhere to find them. You need only to turn within and discover the Presence who gives these gifts each moment you open to receive them.

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