You have Enough, You are Enough
I have been living in a small house in the Blue Ridge mountains, up a long winding driveway for most of 2019. When it snows, I can’t get out of the driveway until my neighbor has time to bring his tractor plow up and help me out. And since he is busy plowing for the county, it usually doesn’t get plowed for several days.
My home has been in the city of Washington, D.C. for thirty-four years, which is hard to believe, but true. When I’m staying in the city, the part of me that wants to run after people, activities, and restaurants gets really going. As a result, my ability to be satisfied with what I already have gets weaker.
Hanging in my house is a beautiful calligraphy penned by Thich Nhat Hanh that says, “Samtusta, You Have Enough”. Samtusta is the Sanskrit word meaning satisfied, contented or “easily satisfied”. It means we know we have enough conditions to be happy right now. I need to see this calligraphy on a daily basis, because if I don’t, I forget about the contentment available in each breath. Even though I have more than enough of everything I need in my life, I get caught up in thinking I need something more or something different.
When I’m in the city, I’m aware of all the new or interesting restaurants, museums, theater shows, people to meet or new projects to begin that I think might make me just a little bit happier. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing any of those things, the problem is within me. I have a belief that I can always find something else – something out there – that will make me happier in here.
Being on the mountain offers me the conditions I need in order to learn and practice samtusta. To get to a grocery store or town, I need to drive 20 minutes, minimum. There is no Uber Eats, no pizza delivery, no Indian or Bareburger carry-out, so whatever I brought with me to cook and eat is what I am going to eat that day. There are fewer choices to make on the mountain because there is so much less available. In the same way that being married supports diving deeper into one relationship, being isolated forces me to notice that what I have is actually enough.
Most of us have work we need to do to support ourselves and/or children to raise, so we can’t just up and move to a mountain. I get that. My kids are grown, and my work is mostly online now, so I have that flexibility. And, just to be clear, I’m not living in a cave like the teacher Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo did for 12 years. But taking away even a small amount of distraction is helpful to this practice of samtusta.
“The answer lies within ourselves. If we can’t find peace and happiness there, it’s not going to come from the outside.” – Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Meditation retreats are designed to take us away from our usual world for a few days, weeks, or years. Having a break from our habit of chasing the next thing may help us see that we don’t need to run after anything. One way to practice samtusta without going on a retreat is to prioritize activities and let go of what’s not essential for a period of time. Of course, we need to do what is necessary to take care of our basic needs (and our children’s), but beyond that, it is possible to say No to activities which feel necessary but maybe aren’t, especially those we are doing because we think they are going to bring us the happiness we have always wanted.
We do enough. We have enough. We are enough.
Thich Nhat Hanh was inspired to his long career as a Buddhist monk by seeing a picture of the Buddha in a pose of contentment.
“Seeing this peaceful image, the idea came to me that l wanted to become someone like that Buddha, someone who could sit very still and calm. I think that was the moment when I first wanted to become a monk, although I didn’t know how to describe it that way at the time.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, At Home in the World: Stories and Essential Teachings from a Monk’s Life
If I look into what drives me to run after activities, I see that I am trying to find some extra bit of pleasure, avoid being judged by others, or I have a bad case of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I’m worried about being left out of projects, communities or activities because if I am not there, I will no longer belong. But that’s impossible. I belong to this earth, to this place, to this moment. No matter what I do or don’t do. We all do.
“It only takes a reminder to breathe, a moment to be still, and just like that, something in me settles, softens, makes space for imperfection. The harsh voice of judgment drops to a whisper and I remember again that life isn’t a relay race; that we will all cross the finish line; that waking up to life is what we were born for.” – Dana Faulds, Go In and In
In order to practice contentment, we need to resist the undertow of busyness and discontent. This moment can be enough if we let it. We can drink our fill of this world by sitting still and letting it come to us. We don’t have to always go out and chase it.
It feels important to add that samtusta doesn’t mean we need to be content with actions that harm ourselves and others. We definitely shouldn’t sit still in the face of injustice and abuse. We could find contentment even when working long hours for justice or amidst the unlimited options of city life. Whatever we do, we can do it with the spirit of samtusta, of knowing that we are already complete.
Breathe with me, here and now. You are there and I am here. Can you find a spark of completeness as you read this? In this moment, what more do you need? Samtusta, You Have Enough.