Friday, November 13, 2009


Contentment. Practicing contentment can be more difficult than it would seem. We live in a fast-paced, success-oriented, consumerist society which seems to be sending the same message over and over again: you are not yet complete without the latest (fill in the blank). At what point, then, are we complete? When we've maxed out our last credit card?? I think a great many people have already tried that and guess what? It doesn't work! Practicing santosha means practicing regular reflection on what we have, not what we don't have. We do tend to do this from time to time: saying grace before dinner, saying blessings for our family, etc. But most of the time we get caught up in the rat race of status and consumption. Santosha is more than saying grace. It is remembering all day long what we are grateful for. Not obsessing about the car we want to have but rather reminding ourselves of how lucky we are to have a car that gets us where we want to go. Santosha means celebrating the healthy body you have rather than despising our legs that don't look good in skinny jeans. Get the gist? It is simply a matter of turning around the negative thoughts: they are only one side of the coin. Focus on the other side instead. It saves a lot of energy and helps you develop a far more satisfying life.
A radical example of practicing santosha is that of a friend of mine in the yoga community whose house burned down a few years ago. She lost all of her possessions. This is everyone's nightmare. But what she walked away with was her life and her daughter's life. Neither was injured. Within one week she began to experience a feeling of great freedom and contentment. She no longer had all the clutter of everyday life, just the things that mattered, her daughter and herself. This is not such an unusual story. Many people have reported that same sense of freedom once they finally lost all their "stuff". We tend to cling to our belongings and fear losing them as we've identified with them as an integral part of ourselves. But once they are gone, we realize we are so much more than the sum of our belongings! Aparigraha, or non-hoarding, is practiced for this very reason.
Every day we need to re-evaluate our contentment. Sometimes we are not healthy or we do not have a car. And sometimes we need to just kvetch and get it out of our system. But Satya, or truth, is a major component here. If we are truthful with ourselves about what is, we are more likely to cultivate contentment than if we simply sulk about what is not and long for something that no longer is or was never meant to be.

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