Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Santosha, or Contentment

The niyama Santosha, or contentment, is about being satisfied with – and grateful for – whatever you have and whatever happens. It’s an easy concept to understand, but a challenge to put into practice.

We all have moments of contentment – when everything seems “just right.” But – at least for me – it never seems to last. I can always find something to worry about.

Practicing Santosha asks us to accept what is, and to make the best of everything. This is easy when things are going well. But much more of a challenge in the difficult times.

I think it’s helpful to remember that nothing is permanent. So when life gets tough, remind yourself that things will eventually change, because they always do. And when life is going well, enjoy it. Just enjoy it.

For me, achieving contentment isn’t something I can will into being. Instead, it just seems to happen on its own. But I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to invite contentment to show up more frequently.

1. At the end of the day, make a list of five things for which you are grateful. Be specific – cite things that happened that day, rather than general topics like “my family” and “my job.”

2. Express gratitude in the moment – Having lunch with a friend whom you haven’t seen in awhile. Don’t just think “I’m glad we did this.” Say it! It’ll make you both feel good.

3. Express gratitude for the ordinary. I swear, one of the secrets of a healthy relationship is to appreciate the everyday things your partner does. “Thanks for making a delicious dinner” goes a long way with me, even though my husband says it several times a week. I’m finding that “Thanks for working so hard today” makes him feel appreciated at the end of a long day.

On the yoga mat, practice contentment by accepting yourself for who you are. And be grateful! Rather than berating yourself for letting your thighs get jiggly, be grateful that your legs are strong enough to support you in warrior pose. Rather than cursing your tender wrists, be grateful that you’re coming to class each week to try to strengthen them.

Life is short. Don’t waste a precious minute talking down to yourself. But when you catch yourself doing it, immediately counter it with a positive thought. It isn’t always easy to pay oneself a compliment, but it’s not too hard to find something to be grateful for.