So 2 Sunday's ago we continued studying the eight limbs of yoga, as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. Coming to the second observance, or niyama , SANTOSHA, or contentment. It is key to all the niyamas and a necessary condition for enlightenment. Contentment paves the way for the integration of all the tools yoga offers.
David explained that Santosha is where we find comfort and where we most enjoy ourselves.
When I think about what Santosha means to me I think of moving my body, spending time with people I care about, cooking, drinking tea, listening to music, being outside, taking a HOT shower/bath, swimming in the ocean, spooning, sleeping, laughing, babies and puppies.....
Well this weekend SANTOSHA came early and brought me lots of presents :))))) including my first Christmas tree!
Thanks SHAN JT AND KAT ;)
Contentment is a requirement for peace of mind, yet we live in a culture that fosters discontentment. We are bombarded by advertisements that make us feel inadequate and promote a continual grasping for material wealth and sensual experience. We are taught to seek superficial gratification with no regard for future consequences for ourselves or the world. We become attached to things and people to avoid our personal discomfort. We are led to believe that satisfaction of our cravings, as well as our egos, will bring happiness. To the contrary, ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and clinging to the sensual are actually obstacles to our contentment and our prospects for liberation. These five obstacles (called kleshas in the yoga texts) are the causes of all suffering. No wonder people can be so short-tempered and grouchy!
So, what is contentment, and how do we incorporate it as an "observance" in our lives? Contentment is serenity, but not complacency. It is comfort, but not submission; reconciliation, not apathy; acknowledgment, not aloofness. Contentment is a mental decision, a moral choice, a practiced observance, a step into the reality of the cosmos. Contentment/santosha is the natural state of our humanness and our divinity and allows for our creativity and love to emerge. It is knowing our place in the universe at every moment. It is unity with the largest, most abiding, reality.
Too often we think too small. Some people believe they must close their eyes to the suffering of others in order to maintain their own contentment. They confuse indifference with detachment, passivity with peacefulness, and isolation with equanimity. But hiding one's head in the sand will not guarantee contentment. There is an old saying from India: “You can wake up a sleeping person but you cannot awaken someone who is pretending to sleep.”
There are several ways to cultivate contentment. We can practice yoga postures, pranayama (deep breathing) and meditation to keep our energies balanced and our mind serene--qualities that lead toward contentment. We can keep a journal of things for which we are grateful. The deepest contentment comes at those moments when we feel we are in the flow of life, when we are communing with nature, when our energies are positive and when we have no desires. By being conscious of these moments, we can strengthen, expand and sustain the feeling of contentment for longer periods of time. Even when we are surrounded by chaos and disharmony, we can return to this feeling and find ourselves back in a place of peace and quietude. The state of contentment becomes a familiar place when we observe it throughout the day. The key is to bring our attention fully to it when it occurs and not hurry on to the next activity. And by affirming our place in the cosmos, our connection to others and our interface with the divine, it is harder to lose our way when disturbances arise.
One of the benefits of contentment is emotional maturity. Dramatic mood swings diminish, and personal crises are no longer the end of the world. Global events do not push us into isolated selfishness, but rather into community. Self-absorption is no longer the theme of our life. The loss of a job, the end of a relationship, or the nightly news broadcast does not leave us feeling devastated or powerless. This does not mean we have no feelings. But when we consciously santosha, we spend more time in contentment and less time in agitation, more time in consciousness awareness, and less time in the emotionality of anger or depression or other negativities. Contentment offers a doorway into another way to experience the world. There is elegance to how it shapes power in lives and allows for greater service to the world.
We live in times of great upheaval, whether we call it the 21st century or the end of the Kali yuga (the age of darkness). We are riding on a wave made of many changes, and because the wave is so high and moving so quickly we cannot always see clearly. People's lives across the planet are agitated by economic disparities, war, climate change and fears of the unknown. We are both the product and creator of these conditions; we help re info rce in one another the qualities of love or fear, contentment or discontentment. Ignoring these factors or becoming overwhelmed by them serves no one. The embrace of a larger reality is necessary in order to give us the courage to act as well as the solace of daily sustenance.
Many prominent leaders who promote non-violence and work toward improving the world have recognized that the cultivation of contentment is a requirement for working to alleviate the misery and suffering that surrounds them. Some of these spiritual souls, all of whom were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, are Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi (a Buddhist leader in Burma under house arrest for years and Nobel Peace Prize winner, 1991), Shirin Ebadi (a woman Iranian human rights lawyer and the first Muslim to win the Nobel Peace Prize, 2003), Jodi Williams (founder of International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, who persuaded 122 countries to sign the Land Mine Ban treaty, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 1997), Kathy Kelly (Catholic peace worker, nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize and recently jailed for peaceful protest at the School of Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia). All of these people observe contentment as they work for non-violent change, even in the face of harassment, criticism and jailings.
The eight limbs of yoga serve as a map for transformation, bringing balance to the inner and outer life. The eight limbs are yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (sense withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (contemplation). These are tools to harmonize us as social beings and to balance us as individuals. The purpose of these eight limbs is to free us to realize our full potential and to bring liberation.
May all hearts be at ease. May our contentment promote the energies to alleviate suffering and turn ignorance into knowledge. May the cultivation of santosha guide us to courageous action, deeper community and greater love of all sentient beings.