18 Aug Santosha, the Philosophy of Contentment
“Contentment brings unsurpassed joy.” Yoga Sutras 2.42
I chose to reflect on the theme of Contentment, or “Santosha” in Sanskrit, as I was preparing to lead a New Moon meditation class in a yoga school. Although I love “yoga” as we mainly refer to it, I also like to remind myself that the physical asanas or postures that we practice in our yoga classes were developed as a purification process and a preparation for meditation. The Yoga Sutras, or philosophy, also include inner reflection with “dos” called Yamas, and “don’ts” called Niyamas. Santosha, or contentment, is one of the Niyamas and is defined as acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances, optimism for self.
What proportion of our thoughts is focused on our to-do lists, our plans, our goals and what we want to learn and improve? What do we tend to remember from the day: our successes or our “failures”? Contentment does not necessarily mean complacency. Personal growth, striving for improvement and ambition are valuable qualities. However we may need reminding that a balanced view of ourselves is actually more insightful. Do we remember to congratulate ourselves every day on every positive action, thought and word? Do we really appreciate our qualities? Our level of inner or self-criticism tends to be proportional to our level of criticism of others. Do we accept and love the people around us the way they are?
In Light on Yoga BKS Iyengar wrote “the yogi feels the lack of nothing and so is naturally content.” Perhaps in our next yoga or meditation class, we can try to not compare ourselves to the person next to us or even to the teacher, to appreciate what we are doing and our current state of being instead of criticising our warrior pose or our thoughts. We can then observe how we feel and if this practice also helps us be more understanding and accepting of others.
I very much enjoyed researching and reflecting on this theme of Santosha. I find that there is something very special about feeling a connection to texts that were written thousands of years ago and being able to practically apply this ancient philosophy to our current daily lives. I really look forward to practicing these tools at the next New Moon meditation.