The second of the niyamas is Santosha, contentment. Santosha invites us into contentment by taking retreat in the calm center within.
As a society, we are conditioned to look for contentment outside ourselves. We often find ourselves thinking “I’ll be happy when I get the job, lose the weight, buy the house”, etc. The principle of Santosha reminds us that as long as we think satisfaction comes from an external source, we can never truly be content. Looking outside of oneself for fulfillment actually keeps the very contentment we seek forever out of reach.
Contentment is often confused with complacency or indifference. Many are concerned that if they are content with their current situation, they will never reach new heights or achieve next level goals. Psychologist Rick Hanson explains that this is a deep misunderstanding about contentment. In his research, he has found that it is actually when we are in a place of feeling the underlying sense of fullness, that the body and mind are able to refuel. That fuel connects one to the joys one most wants to pursue in life.
You might ask how one can be content when struggling with challenges in life. There is no doubt it can be difficult to feel a sense of contentment when dealing with things such as illness, financial worries or chronic stress. It is important to remember that the goal isn’t to numb or push aside difficult feelings and emotions, but to tap into the inner sense of contentment inside each and every one of us. It’s not something one needs to develop, but uncover.
It is acknowledged that tuning into this inner sense of fulfillment takes practice. Consider the following strategies if you would like to more easily tune into a felt sense of contentment.
- Practice gratitude: take time to acknowledge the things (big and small) you are thankful for on a daily basis.
- Take note when feeling content: What brings that sense of fullness, enoughness in your life? Take a moment to feel the sensations in your body when you actually do feel content.
- Challenge yourself to feel content while completing basic tasks: Can you be content while cooking, washing the dishes, or when driving.
- Be okay with discontent: When do you feel dissatisfied, feelings of lack and want? It is important to acknowledge these feelings, remember they are temporary, and actually be content with your discontentment!
As a reminder, the practice is the goal. It is virtually impossible to feel content all the time. The invitation is to look for opportunities to tune into the sense of calm that rests in the center of your being. Be patient.
Join me next week as we uncover the jewel of self-discipline, known as Tapas.