Santosha is Sanskrit for contentment. Yoga encourages us to embrace contentment.
Contentment sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Peaceful. Calm. So just go do it! Be contented.
Did it work? Nope. Why? Because contentment is not a well defined goal to accomplish. It’s not like “go bake cookies.” As Deborah Adele puts it, “Contentment can only be found in acceptance and appreciation of what is in the moment. The more we learn to leave “what is” alone, the more contentment will quietly and steadily find us.”
My American ears first interpreted santosha as having no ambition, no preferences, no desire to engage in life. I thought I must be missing something because that made no sense. Yoga couldn’t possibly be inviting me to sit on the sidelines of my own life while feeling fine about it?
Of course that’s not santosha! Let’s distinguish between contentment and complacency, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Contented is the feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possession, status, or situation.
Complacent is marked by self-satisfaction especially when accompanied by unawareness of actual dangers or deficiencies. Synonyms include apathetic, disinterested, uncurious.
Now it makes sense!
We are all not intended to live alone in a cave. We are meant to live in the world. Can we hang out with a friend with more money, or a better house, or seemingly more desirable partner, and still be grateful for what we have? A complacent person could give up, feel like his life sucks in comparison, and collapse on the floor with a bucket of bonbons and never get up. A contented person acknowledges how wonderful the friend’s life is, while at the same time having deep gratitude for the blessings in his own life. Santosha. When we feel that feeling of “my life isn’t enough,” bring gratitude for something you have right now into your heart and mind. All of us collapse on the floor with a bucket of bonbons from time to time, but we can work on getting up again. Can we be interested in our fortunate friend’s life without slipping too far into envy? We may start with much envy and a wee bit of gratitude, but with effort, over time, the envy will wane and the gratitude will wax. Envy leads to suffering, whereas gratitude leads to peace. Santosha.
Contentment is the acceptance of the moment. Not wishing for something different. Does that mean we approve of or enjoy everything we encounter? No. It just means we accept reality as it is in front of us. However you feel in this moment is how you feel.
Do you walk through the world always longing for something else?
Do you often wish for things to be different, despite the wonderful life and successes you now have?
Find gratitude for something in your life at this very moment. Baby steps. Focus on the gratitude. Trust that it will grow. Because it will.
Looking ahead- this week’s meditations will focus on tapas (meaning heat, catharsis, transformation) – choosing personal growth through life’s experiences.
I wish you all much peace. May you find steps toward santosha on your path.