Santosha, like the other Niyamas and Yamas, are not always easy to live by, but we continue to practice them in our daily lives on and off the mat. The translation of Santosha is contentment or being at peace with oneself and others. Another translation is having or being enough. There are many reasons as to why people are not content, not at peace with themselves, or not feeling like they have or are enough. From what I have gathered over the years, our childhood experiences, ego, and relationships all contribute to our idea of our own worthiness or enough-ness. We are always looking outside of ourselves for happiness to fulfill this desire of being or having enough. The truth is, we are enough. We have enough. And the peace we are searching for is already within us. We choose to look outside of ourselves because that is what we have been conditioned to do, but through yoga you will be able to find yourself and your inner peace.
I have been thinking a lot lately about our world and how we live in America and how we are being manipulated 24/7 through social media, advertising, and by celebrities who influence us. Our devices telling us we need to buy this or that to be worthy, to be enough. Some of us are in perpetual competition with ourselves and other people. Maybe we have a list of goals or things we want to obtain because we think it will make our life "complete." Having goals to accomplish is not a bad thing. It's the idea that once you have met the goal, you will be happy. We need to be happy regardless of meeting the goal or getting the thing. After the shine has worn off and that thing doesn't bring us joy anymore, there's something else we want. We are looking for validation through material items and titles. We think, if I buy a bigger house or boat, people will KNOW how successful or how important I am. Or perhaps, you are comparing yourself to the yogi on the mat next to you. Looking to see if they can get into a challenging pose or not and how you measure up. What Patanjali writes in the Yoga Sutras is for us to be content with what we already have and to stop chasing happiness. When we want something outside of ourselves to bring us happiness, happiness will continue to elude us. The ego will never be satisfied. We think, "I want, I want," because we think this thing/person/job will solve all our issues and will satisfy some craving we have inside. It won't and we will continue the cycle until we are sick of it. We need to dig deep and uncover the happiness and contentment inside of us, which has nothing to do with the external, material world and events.
Being able to cultivate contentment and peace for oneself is not always an easy task. It's easier to be happy when things are going well; when we have food, money, and all of our human needs are being met. But what about when we are struggling and sad? Perhaps, someone close to us has died or we're about to lose our home. How can we find contentment and peace when we are grieving or angry? Again, this is where we dig. And we dig deeper. Looking outside of ourselves will not help. For instance, when someone dies and we choose to drink because of the pain we are feeling; it may relieve some pain temporarily, but ultimately, alcohol (or whatever your vice is) just defers it. The pain will be waiting for us when we choose to experience it. It takes real courage to be able to stay in the moment and feel your feelings. Being able to release the feelings and understand, feelings don't last forever. We can be content in the midst of a death or loss because we know these sad feelings will eventually fade. If we can stay present and appreciate being able to get through the tough moments and come out on the other side, we know we've found a bit of Santosha in our lives. The practice is, can we remain content when things outside of us seem to be falling apart? Knowing that we can stay content regardless of the circumstances we are in IS Santosha.
We can have everything our heart desires, but if we are not content and at peace, none of that stuff matters. I've traveled to some very poor parts of Mexico and Central America where families were living in shacks, yet had the biggest smiles on their faces. How could people with so little, be so happy? They had IT. Peace and happiness. It radiated from their beings. Experiences like those can change a person's perspective on life. Even though it may feel like the world is falling apart right now. . . I am content. I am peaceful and happy with my life right at this moment. That doesn't mean I don't have my days where I am sad. When that happens, I use my tools; my gratitude practice, my breath, my asana practice and other self-care practices to find my way back to inner peace. Santosha means to not allow the events of the world around you to steal your peace. Staying in the moment. Staying mindful. Staying present. When we are in the moment, we are not sad about the past or anxious about the future. There are many things that may happen in my life that can cause me suffering and pain, but it is a choice to stay suffering. You can choose happiness. You can choose to shift your perspective and ask yourself, what can I learn or gain from this experience? This does not necessarily apply to those with mental health disorders; people with a certain diagnosis may not be able to shift perspectives that easily. There may be a chemical imbalance that needs to be addressed through therapy and/or medication.
When we are content, we are living with an open heart. A heart that is open to new ideas, information, and experiences. We are not worried about the future or re-living the past, we are in the present moment. Allowing the present moment to bring whatever experiences and lessons we can gain from them. I am learning not to judge events as "good" or "bad." They just are, like cause and effect. Like in yoga asana, we practice "Vairagya," or non-attachment to the practice on the mat. It is neither "good" nor "bad." We leave the practice on the mat without judgment of ourselves or heaven forbid, judgment of our teachers (wink, wink.) There's this feeling of equanimity. Just like with the poses we don't like, can we find our Santosha in them as we do with the postures we do enjoy?
Wherever you are in life. Be content. You have enough. You are enough. All you need is already within you. You just need to uncover all the layers that you've shrouded yourself in to feel worthy.
Be well. Stay well.