(It’s contentment I'm looking for.)
I like to close my eyes and locate a feeling in my body because by working out where it lives, I can get a sense of it’s anatomy- what it’s really made of -- and then begin to unpack it. [This is a practice I learned from Ana Forrest, Founder of Forrest Yoga]
In asking myself where satisfaction lives, I’ve discovered it resides within my mind, driven by ego and the reward centre of the brain. On the flip-side, contentment lives in my heart- it's a more pure state of being out of which true happiness arises.
I’m giving time and blog space to this matter because I’ve heard satisfaction being used synonymously to meant contentment/ santosha and yet I find them hugely different.
Santosha is the second Niyama of Patanjali’s 8 Limbs of Yoga. It follows Saucha/ Cleanliness, because we've gottaclear out the muck and cobwebs- attachement (raga) and aversion (dvesha)- for contentment to arise.
Yoga is skill in action, on the mat or in your daily life, one of yoga's highest goals is to cultivate Abhyasa (dedication, effort and consistency), while also having Vairagya (the ability to surrender and let it all go). This idea is also expressed in "Sthira Suhka Asanam": an instruction from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, inviting us to cultivate steadiness and ease in all things.
To have true contentment, we need to show up and do our best, but then let go of investment in outcomes. If we just give up effort from the get-go and accept an average outcome, this is more like consolation rather than contentment; it may breed resentment later because we did not try. We still need to have effort, however make sure we are unswayed by outcome.
Contentment dances a slow entrancing waltz with equanimity. Arising from within, it can exist regardless of circumstance and this is powerful ! No need to rely on external factors, striving or waiting for others. With santosha you'll be free from blaming, judgement and self-pity. Cultivate santosha and you have a garden in which true happiness can blossom.
In the Indian Epic Mahabharata, (which includes the Bhagavad Gita) the virtue of Santosha is discussed in many books. For example, in Shanti Parva (the Book of Peace),
"Santosha (contentment) is the highest heaven, santosha is the highest bliss. There is no higher experience than santosha. When one draws away all his craving desires like a tortoise drawing in all it limbs, then the natural resplendence of his soul soon manifests itself. When one does not fear any creature, nor any creature is frightened by him, when one conquers one's cravings and aversion, then is one said to behold one's soul. When one, indeed, in word and thought, seeks to injure nobody and cherishes no desire, one is said to attain Brahman (consciousness-bliss)."
—Shanti Parva, Chapter 2
Discover santosha by accepting how things are. No wishing for better, or more, or different in order to gain a feeling of content. Choose contentment now: choose to let go of attachment and aversion, you have the power to cultivate santosha!
Mantras for Santosha:
I am grateful for what I have and for what I do not have.
I learn from the joys and challenges life brings me.
I choose to honor the good in myself and others.
I choose to refrain from criticism of myself and others.
Meditation for Santosha:
Find a comfortable position (sitting or lying).
Notice how you feel – physically, mentally, emotionally.
Locate where in your body/mind you feel a sense of wellness and ease.
Nourish this sense of well-being.
Your single pointed focus is on: Nourishing Your Sense of Well-being.