With two weeks into the New Year, we are still surrounded by optimism, hope, and goal setting. The energy is high, we feel more lively, and there is a common sense of commitment. Most of us have given ourselves inner-spoken pep talks. Things like “This is your year,” “2017 is going to be the best year yet,” “Time to make moves and be better this year,” “No settling time time, I am conquering my goals!”
This is what starting a new year is all about: changing our routines. Changing our environment. Changing ourselves. Change and the hope of change is powerful and one of the first steps to transformation. At the same time, it is also important to remember one of the many yoga sutras in yogic philosophy: Santosha.
Santosha, derived from the ancient Sanskrit language, means contentment. It is one of the five Niyamas in yogic philosophy, and is the practice of accepting life as it is and appreciating yourself as you are - warts, waistline, and all. Contentment is the basis of happiness and peace.
Have you ever said the phrase, “I’ll be happy when….” ?
This “when” could be losing weight, getting a promotion, finding a new job, meeting someone new, or getting into a new yoga pose. The opposite of contentment is longing for what we don’t have, for always planning for what is next, not appreciating where we are now, or wishing that things had happened differently. While generating and maintaining goals is a platform to positive self transformation, it can become problematic when our entire sense of happiness and inner peace is based upon conquering goals.
Santosha is… :
Seeing what is true.
One of the first steps to Santosha is to acknowledge and be with what is actually happening. Are you feeling rested, energized, and ready for your day? Are you feeling confused, unsure how to proceed with a challenge, and it’s leaving you heavy? Are you in the middle of a crisis and not sure how to get out? Santosha asks us to take a moment to sit in the midst of what we are feeling, acknowledge it, explore it, and feel it. Santosha asks us to feel our feelings, all of them, without running away. Because of that, this is not a sissy topic. Santosha asks us to step into our own life, with two feet, and to step into each experience - both comfortable and uncomfortable.
If it’s sunny, we are content. If it rains, we are content. If our commute takes longer than planned and we sit in a line of stand-still traffic, we are content. If people around us are happy, we are content. If people around us are feeling down, we are content. Santosha is easy to practice if everything seems to be going well. If something unplanned or unwanted happens, it can be challenging to maintain this contentment. Santosha is an unwavering inner peace that is independent on what is happening around us in that moment. Regardless of the circumstance, we are rooted in a calm center.
An active process.
Contentment is not to be confused with complacency - it is an active practice. It does not mean idly sitting back and relinquishing the need to do anything. It means we accept what we have, where we are, and then we can powerfully move forwards from there. Santosha is about choice. From this calm center we can choose how we respond, choose conscious action rather than reaction. Choose happiness. Don’t wait for happiness to come to you. You may tend to overlook the positive aspects of your life, and you can deliberately choose to be happy for what you have. Recognize the beautiful things in your life as they are now.
Life is full of ups and downs. Each day can bring a variety of joys and disappointments. Contentment is cultivating the ability to experience these range of emotions and still find a calm refuge in our heart. With this New Year, let’s embody contentment to live with these fluctuations while our feet are firmly planted on the ground with balance, knowing that in this very moment nothing is missing.
Fall in love with your life.