Cultivating Contentment

How much of your energy is spent pursuing that which you covet? What do you chase after in your daily life, and what does that chasing bring you?

Most of us identify what we want and set off in hot pursuit to get it. Some of us chase after money, so we spend too much time at work banking hours or billing for our time. Some of us pursue someone, doing everything in our power to get that person to notice us. Some of us pursue fame, and do whatever we can to make people notice us and ensure the spotlight is fixed on us at all costs. Everyone pursues something at some point in his or her life, and for all of you who know what I’m talking about, then you also know this to be true: the more doggedly you pursue something or someone, the more you try to manipulate a situation to be what you want it to be, the more it becomes the exact opposite of how you projected it as being.

Within the 8-Limb Ashtanga Yoga System, we come across the Niyamas, which are essentially observances or restrictions on how we treat ourselves and the manner in which we live our lives. One of these observances is Santosha, which translates to contentment. We are instructed to live a life steeped in contentment, to not get caught up in the dramas we typically get caught up in, to stay neutral and simply find contentment in all aspects of our life, come what may. I’ve always had trouble conveying this to students, as I don’t find it helpful to simply instruct someone to be content with their lot in life. Many of us experience challenging moments throughout life, in which we find ourselves tested through moments of hardship and difficulty, and being told to find contentment can be incredibly annoying. I like to be able to pass onto students tools that they can practically apply to their daily situations, and try to stay away from flighty “yoga speak”, so you can understand why I have fought with the concept of Santosha. Until now.

After reading something that Swami Satchidananda wrote about contentment, I realized something to be true, something that has manifested in my own life and experiences: one aspect of the way life works, the way universal law works, is this:  if you are doggedly pursuing that which continues to elude you, stop pursuing. Stop running. Stop chasing. Let go of the race. When you do that, honestly and with a real intention to let go, that which you were pursuing for so long will in turn come to you. It will chase you. It will pursue you. When you let go, things just come to you. It sounds like more “yoga speak”, I know. But it has happened in my life, and I know it to be true. When I decided to leave my past career and focus my energy on yoga, I found things start to gravitate to me. Opportunities, like-minded peers, tools. All of it started appearing. But only after I gave up the chase. Only when I trusted that my feet would land on the ground as long as I kept my intentions honest and pure. As Swami Satchidananda says, “Contentment is purity of heart, not a heart that is anxiously searching for something. When you have that contentment, everything is golden to you. Keep your body and mind totally easeful and peaceful. Let things come and go as nature wants.”

When you can let go and just be, in your most natural state, as you are when no one is watching, you will find contentment. And in that state, all that you previously ran after will find you. It may not happen as fast as you’d like it to, it may not appear under the guise you expected, but with a clear heart and clear vision, you will be able to identify it. That is Santosha. That is something we can use and apply to our daily lives. That is one more tool from the yoga system. Use it. It’s been here all along, and now that you’ve read this, you have no reason to ignore it 🙂

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