In this sorely needed work, psychologist Robert A. Johnson and Jerry M. Ruhl refer to Arusakumar, a contented coconut seller in Southern India "who sees the will of God in all that crosses his path — the disappointments and defeats as well as the joys and victories. Contentment comes, not only from getting what he wants, but also from wanting what he gets. He accepts that 'what is' is divinely inspired." Contrast that to the epidemic of discontent in Western society where we expect everything and, when things don't go as we wish, we are terribly unhappy.

In order to shed more light on this contemporary malaise, Johnson and Ruhl dissect Shakespeare's King Lear. They discuss the importance of reclaiming our shadow, reeling in our projections upon others, heeding the inner fool, letting go of "your way," and walking — as the Buddhists do — the razor's edge.

Contentment means being who you are — no more and no less. It also involves the acceptance of imperfections. Once we start on this path, it will lead us to various gifts, including energy, fidelity to the moment, stopping, home, paradox, confusion, forgiveness, and detachment. The capacity to mediate our desires with what is marks the beginning of wisdom. It enables us to realize once and for all that contentment always comes from the inside.

Try a Spiritual Practice on Being Present