Do you believe, as I do, that things presented to you at any given time are exactly the things you need to learn and grow? That has certainly been my experience this last month as I've prepared to offer thoughts about our second niyama in yoga - Santosha (aka samtosha, san/samtosa), which translates as Contentment.
We sometimes tend to think of contentment in a slightly negative way - like we're settling for something less than what we should be aiming for. But think for a minute about a time when you did feel truly content. What does that feel like? In that moment of contentment, everything is perfect. You are simply savoring the moment, there is nothing else you want or need, all is right with the world. Cultivating santosha in our lives is a wonderful yogic gift to ourselves.
Contentment is accepting what life is currently giving us. We fall out of contentment when we begin to wish for things to be different than they are. It might be that we are craving something we don't have, begrudging another what they do have or missing what we used to have. These external focus points take our attention away from what is happening at this very moment, causing us to miss the joy and lessons in the present journey and robbing us of contentment's peace. It doesn't mean we cannot work to improve ourselves or situations. Accepting what IS gives us the opportunity to make healthy choices, to maintain a sense of hope and to be in a place of calm in the midst of chaos. Refusing to accept what IS puts us in a state of resistance or denial that tends to promote ultimately less healthy choices, hopelessness, anger and frustration. Doesn't the former sound better?
In this last month, I had three specific contentment lessons show up in full force! As I mentioned earlier, I believe we are given opportunities that we need to grow and these were so pertinent to this month's post! Two of them were about me personally. In one, a business partnership had me feeling very discontented. When I recognized this, I could see where I was wishing it to be different than it actually was. I took responsibility for wishing that way and took action to change it. The situation resolved beautifully and I am back to content in that area - perfect!
The second lesson of my own and the third involving a family member both had to do with unexpected health challenges. Life is unexpected, right? We wake up and never really know what that day is going to serve us up! In both these situations, I faced something that could significantly change the course of my health and that of a family member - the proverbial curve ball. My options are the same as they are for each of us in every curve ball we come to bat for. I can rant and rail against the new truth, of what IS. This might look like anger, defensiveness, or despair. My body and mind will be geared up for a fight, promoting stress and angst and unrest. Definitely not contentment! I can deny the new truth, what IS. This might look like extreme busy-ness in endless distractions or depression, boredom or forced happiness. My body and mind might look like they are contented, but the stress of maintaining a lie will eventually take its toll.
Or, I can accept the new truth, what IS. I can greet it calmly and see what kind of relationship I can forge with this new what IS. Openly and fully seeing a new situation gives me the chance to also see all my action options. I can see what lessons might be hidden in the new reality that will benefit me and others down the road. It gives me encouragement that I can do the best I can today, learn a bit, and have a chance to do a little better tomorrow - and that's enough. And that is peaceful in chaos. That is contentment. Santosha.
What situations are you facing today that are keeping you from contentment? Can you identify feelings of discontent and discover what they are really about, so you might also find a way to resolve them? It's a process! Remember the yama Ahimsa (non-violence) as you move along this journey and be kind to yourself as you proceed. The moment is now and it's perfect.