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Focus of the Month - December

Santoṣa सन्तोष – Contentment


written by Valery Diaz Guerrero


We all might have experienced moments, times or maybe longer phases in our life’s where we felt unsatisfied or unhappy.

Maybe you regretted a decision you took. Maybe you are or have been dissatisfied because of your performance, your look or your weight. Maybe you were unhappy because you couldn’t have what you were wishing for or you didn’t get what you expected. It's so easy to keep finding reasons to complain or not to be happy. In fact it is actually much easier for the human brain to feel dissatisfied than fulfilled. In order to counterbalance this pattern, we will focus on reconnecting with contentment in this last month of the year. We invite you to reflect on your current state of mind, let go of negative self-talk and complaints, and step into self-responsibility and gratitude instead. Let's end 2021 together in a content and peaceful way.


Translation/ Meaning

The term Santosha is derived from the Sanskrit sam, meaning “completely” and tosha, meaning “contentment” or “acceptance." Altogether, it may be translated as "complete contentment."

Santosha is generally considered to be both an attitude and a state of deep inner peace. By practicing Santosha, the yogi is freed from cravings and desires. When we are free from such influences, we are also free to pursue our own calling without fear. This is considered an essential part of spiritual development. Cultivating Santosha, it is said to end one's suffering.

Santosha is the second Niyama of Patanjali’s eight limbs yogic way. Niyama means “rules” or “laws”. These are the rules prescribed for personal or inner observance. Niyama includes the five following practices: Saucha (cleanliness), Santosha (contentment), Tapah (austerity), Svadhyaya (self-study), Ishvara Pranidhanani (devotion). In the following part we will go into more detail about the meaning of Santosha in Patanjali's Yoga Sutra and in the same course we will encounter the differences between pleasure, happiness, contentment and bliss.


In the Sutra 2:42 it’s said that

“As a result of contentment, supreme peace and happiness are experienced.”

How do we achieve supreme peace and happiness/ bliss? Through contentment. This is the great statement of Patanjali in this verse. Most people think that you get "sukha", which actually means pleasure or happiness, by satisfying desires. Desires like good food, more money, beautiful experiences or compliments from others. That's what people think is "sukha", pleasure or happiness. Patanjali turns that around. He says, through santosha comes happiness, and not just any happiness, but unsurpassed happiness, great happiness, bliss. “Small” happiness may come through pleasure. But unsurpassed or supreme happiness comes through the cultivation of contentment.


So how to cultivate Santosha into our lives?

Cultivating Santosha is a long process. The following practical tips can help to find peace and acceptance for and with what we have and are. Nevertheless it is important to say that real contentment will not happen from just a mantra or an affirmation. Real santosha will only happen from within, when you let go of the superficial identification with body and mind, and when you connect to your inner most nature. Only through this self-realization you will be filled and will remain with Santosha sustainably.


1. Practice gratitude

It’s hard to ever be satisfied, when the media steadily tells us that we need more. A small thing that we can practice daily is gratitude. Try to think of three things you feel grateful for, after you get up as part of your morning routine, or in the evening before you go to bed. These can be material things like your home or your bed or non-material things like relationships or your health. You can also write a gratitude diary to reflect and remember what you are grateful for. As you bring gratitude into the field of your awareness, notice how it feels, how is your mind responding, how is your energy shifitng?


2. Cultivate a positive attitude towards life and self-responsibility

When you are caught in negative self-talk or feel uninspired by life you have three options: Leave the situation, which makes you feel negative, change it, or accept it.

If you cannot accept the present as it is, you can take self-responsibility and self-efficacy for your own life and change something about it. We need to understand and acknowledge that most of us have the privilege and the power to create our own life’s. Of course there are many things that we can't change or control yet mostly we can consciously choose how we respond to difficult or challenging circumstances.

It is about the balance between controlling and directing, but also letting go and trusting the flow of life.


“If you find you are here and now unbearable and it makes you unhappy, there are three options: Leave the situation, change it, or accept it altogether. If you want to take responsibility for your life, then you must choose one of these three options, and you must make the choice now.” - Eckhard Tolle


What also can help for a positive attitude towards life:

  • Compassion and do good, i.e. give away warm clothes.

  • Kindness towards the people who surround you.

  • Calmness - develop a healthy trust in life.

  • Humor - don’t take everything so seriously and keep on laughing! :)


3. Practice self-love & boost your self-esteem

One reason we are so unsatisfied often is that we have a distorted self-image or we want to be more, as some of us may have excessive demands on ourselves or are even perfectionists. The first step would be to not compare yourself to others. There is a reason why in a yoga practice you might hear your teacher saying “stay on your mat”. As soon as we are looking for what others are doing we lose connection to ourselves, get distracted and frustrated. We might lose the joy of what we are doing. Therefore it can help to focus on yourself and to praise yourself for what YOU have achieved or done. You could start to write a self-esteem journal, where - at the end of the day or week - you list all the achievements or activities you are proud of. What is also helpful for your self-esteem is to make plans or get creative. Maybe cook something delicious, treat yourself with a self-care day, educate yourself, learn something new or start a new hobby.


Asana

  • Accept your body's limitations, rather than striving for more

  • Heart-opening Asanas to cultivate an open attitude towards life

  • Core strengthening and twists to activate your will-power and self-esteem to change your life

  • Hip-openers to let go of cravings and find acceptance

  • Soft and intuitive movements to cultivate lightness in your practice (Sukha)

Meditation

  • Practice gratitude meditation

  • Practice Metta Bhavana meditation


Mantras

  • So Hum (सोऽहम) is translated to „I am this. This I am“. Reminding us that our individual soul is part of the collective, universal soul.

  • Om Shanti (शान्ति) Om is the universal sound. Shanti means peace. Chant Shanti three times, as an expression of peace for body, mind and soul, or also, peace for yourself, peace for all fellow creatures, peace for the whole world. Or also, Shanti, peace with your past, peace with your future, peace with your present.


Affirmations

  • I am content.

  • I honor myself with all my facets

  • I am grateful for what I have and for what I don’t have.

  • I learn from the joys and the disappointments life brings me.

  • I refrain from self-criticism and faultfinding.

  • I accept life just the way it is.

  • I enjoy my life.


If you have any other practical tips or ideas regarding cultivating contentment let us know in the comments!


Thank you for reading. Enjoy your Practice! Namasté

Valery & the entire Yoga on the Move team


Quotes


“He who is not content with what he has, would not be content with what he would like to have.”

Socrates


“If you find your here and now unbearable and it makes you unhappy, there are three options: Leave the situation, change it, or accept it altogether. If you want to take responsibility for your life, then you must choose one of these three options, and you must make the choice now.” Eckhard Tolle


“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn't try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn't need others' approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” Lao Tzu


“Boundless expansion is your fundamental desire. But unfortunately for most people it is finding a very constipated expression. (...) They are going shopping. They're trying to satisfy this in installments. So the problem is not the fundamental desire to expand limitlessly. The problem is the way you are addressing it. You are trying to address infinite nature in installments. You are trying to get to infinity by counting one, two, three, four, five. It is not working. So use Algebra, use Trigonometry, use combinations, do whatever the hell you want. You will not get to infinite nature. Because right now your identity is physical, you are identified with the body. Because you are identified with the body you think expansion means one increment. One more increment. Like this, go on. Increments and installments will not take you anywhere. All that it will do to your life is you become endless running. (...) Now the important thing to understand is your desire is to become boundless, but your identity is physical. The nature of physicality is a defined boundary. (...) So you are taking a physical thing and trying to become infinite. (...) So you are trying to go into a no-boundary-state with a boundary. So that is the pain of life that people are going through.” Sat Guru

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