It isn’t easy to maintain Santosha in a society designed to keep us from it. Santosha is the second Niyama, listed in Patanjali’s Sutras, under the eight limbs of yoga. It means contentment.
Each day we are blasted with messages, on the Internet, on TV, on the radio, on billboards. Our consumer driven culture leads us to want. These messages promise if we have this product, this house, this hair, this car, this kitchen, this wardrobe, this body, this lifestyle, this this this, we will be happy.
It’s also easy to fall into the trap of when this happens, I’ll be okay. When I graduate. When I get married. When I get my dream job. When I get pregnant. When I make this much money. When my child graduates. When my business takes off. When I retire. It goes on and on.
It’s common to seek Santosha along a spiritual path, only to wind up using spiritual practices against ourselves, fueling even more discontent.
For example, I often meditate lying down, listening to a guided meditation, or music, and my inner critic will chastise me, “You really should be sitting up. You should be letting the energy travel up your spine. You really shouldn’t be relying on guided meditation.”
Here I am, a busy person, juggling many responsibilities, taking twenty minutes out of my day to meditate in an effort to be more peaceful, and that can’t suffice? I have to meditate more perfectly? I know plenty of people who get frustrated that they can’t clear their minds during meditation and give up. Or people who press on, allowing themselves to feel defeated in a yoga practice, rather than taking breaks as needed. We push. We strive. It’s never enough. We’re never enough.
What if we gave ourselves permission to be content right in the midst of our imperfect lives? Santosha in a child’s pose, while resting, as the class flows around us. Santosha in meditation, even as our minds wander. We can still move toward our goals and dreams and desires, but the energy changes when we accept things as they are. A weight is lifted when we let go of all that dissatisfied “wanting” energy.
Every “want” is a spiritual craving. Underneath the desire for things, or experiences, or accomplishments or accolades, or even the perfect meditation practice, is a wanting to connect with our Source. A desire to know that we are enough, we are loved, we matter.
It’s in the stillness of our practice, that we touch those moments of Knowing. Each of us is a unique expression of the Divine. We don’t need to earn it. We don’t need to prove it. It has nothing to do with what we have, or what we’ve accomplished. What we’ve done or left undone has no ability to change it.
We think we need all “this,” but what we’re seeking is so much easier and closer than we think. Practicing Santosha, is as simple as giving ourselves permission to be alright. To be okay with the way things are, in this moment.
Santosha = Contentment.
It’s okay to want. It’s okay to dream and have goals. It is part of being human. But we can also be conscious of the reasons behind our wanting. We can be aware, and ask ourselves if our desires are coming from a place of lack, or a place of vision and expansion? Perhaps we can even direct our wants from the very space of Santosha? Like new parents expecting a baby, or a gardener planting flowers. Gently letting things unfold. Doing all the right things along the way to support the process. Smiling in contented delight at the blessings on the way.