For the last few months I have been ‘practicing’ Contentment. I call it practice because it usually does not come naturally to most people to simply feel okay about oneself, the world and everything in it – myself included! I found stating the reminder that ‘I am content’ throughout the rollercoaster of ups and downs in my day to be a very useful tool.
Santosha, the Sanskrit for contentment, is popularly practiced as one of the five Niyama ‘observances’ from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Together with the Yamas, they compromise ten guidelines to help one live with more clarity, vitality and consciousness, both within the world and within oneself.
I began my Contentment practice because I was going through a torturous time of constantly questioning myself, my every choice, and action. It was not fun and I felt like my inner conversations were driving me down a dark, dreary, and lonely hole.
For example, while leading yoga, the copious options available to me as a yoga teacher of themes, ideas to weave in, postures, even specific words to use, did not overwhelm me, but it felt like I couldn’t choose ‘the right’ one in the moment. Then, after the fact, I would second-guess myself and regret what I had led. It felt like I was walking through wet cement.
I prayed and asked for help. And help always comes – whether it’s from one’s highest, deepest, truest Self, from above, or from below, I’m not sure, but to me it feels like it comes from all places inside and out that are pure and true. The answer came that there is no ‘right’ or ‘correct’ choice.
To Trust myself and the world, to be Content with whatever I choose to do, and to be Okay with the whole process from beginning to end, was the message. I realized living life is like making art: it requires flow and freedom in its rhythm and cadence. Altogether it’s the collected moments that ebb with the universe and create beauty, rather than, as I had been attempting, trying to squeeze a masterpiece out of every single moment!
To help me remember this wisdom, I began to state the affirmation with Hansi Mudra numerous times a day: ‘I am Content, dear God’. (I say God because that’s what comes to me, but please use/insert your name or understanding of the higher forces that be – Universe, Creator, Goddess, Spirit, Ancestors, Shiva…).
I experimented by practicing Contentment when I felt great! And it affirmed that ‘Wow! Life IS great! I AM content!’.
I also practiced Contentment when I felt absolutely awful! And this is when the real gifts blossomed. Instantly, it would put everything into perspective, and my troubling conundrum would feel as small as a fly, rather than overwhelm me like a tiger.
Contentment practice helped me to realize,
How could that not be enough? It brought me to a place of respect and awe for the truth behind the reality of the relative world, that there are higher powers supporting it all. Often we see the small irritant and become easily disgruntled, not seeing the larger picture, which may not feel perfect, but is in fact beautiful and perfect in its own way – just not the way ‘I’ wanted.
I found the most potent approach is to practice five or more various times throughout your day both Hansi Mudra to energetically and symbolically seal Contentment in your body (as outlined in another October, 2016 blog post); and with the phrase ‘I am Content, here and now’ (feel free to change or make the wording your own).
Practicing contentment can free you from suffering caused by wanting and wishing you, the world and things were different. May you instead be filled with gratitude and joy for all of life’s eternal blessings.
written by Jennifer Reis, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist, creator of Five Element Yoga® and Divine Sleep® Yoga Nidra.
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