Santosha (sometimes spelled Santosa) is yoga’s second Niyama (our attitude and relationship with the world) which utterly means Contentment.
1. Santosha is the contentment from the inside out. Meaning that contentment must come from within. It must be a development from our core most being. We all have been there, we act content and say we are content but are far from it; we may not even know what it truly means. Contentment is asking us to dig deep and discover that even when lacking we can be content, we can be satisfied with what we have been given or not given. And to me, part of the contentment is also possibly admitting that right now in this moment we may not be totally happy, but we are working and learning to be content. There is a level of honesty that comes with the second Niyama.
2. Contentment is a great way to look at the world in which we live and say “these are opportunities to grow.” So now the question is: “are you ready and willing to grow?” We often make the decision to “grow” on our own terms, when the time is right, and the truth is-the time is right-right now! Yoga has taught me that if we pick and choose when to grow, we will continue to wonder why we are so unhappy or that our happiness is temporary. And that contentment doesn’t necessarily mean we have to suffer, but really the opposite. Contentment teaches us that there is a big world full of opportunity out there just waiting for us, just as soon as we stop waiting for the “right time.” I often tell my students, that which for many years now have told myself and now my young children “what can you learn from this”, and that there is an opportunity to grow in everything, you can learn something from everyone and everything, it’s just if you want to. It’s as simple as a yoga class, you find yourself in a class that is “so not up to your caliber” and all you think about is leaving, or how bad it is. Well maybe that class is that way for you to discover something about yourself that you would not otherwise notice-so the question now becomes…do you chose to learn contentment and grow or not?
3. There is always something better….But there is also something much worse. Being able to see both sides of the spectrum is a very healthy way to stop feeling sorry for yourself and discover Santosha. I struggled for ten years with a wide variety of eating disorders, depression and social anxiety. And a constant recurring thought pattern was that I was always the failure, the one that wasn’t getting it. What AA calls relapsing, I had found myself there many times and each time I would fall I would only see failure; having again to starting over at the beginning. And once yoga taught me to be content with the fact that I may have acted inappropriately, I was then able to actually accept my place in that moment, in my recovery, and in my life. Yeah, I wasn’t quite out of the red, but I wasn’t anywhere close to where I use to be, and in those many moments, I learned to be O.K. with that.
4. Stop seeking and start living, contentment in every situation, not just when things are going good, but when you are challenged and when you have to work and truly open. I remember back to high school, a quote that had made my school’s year book, a quote that the person inside of me that had always been there spoke out: “I will continue to stand up even if I am standing alone”. Santosha begs us to be content with what we have and what we don’t. It asks us to stand up and speak out knowing that there will be someone that doesn’t like you, doesn’t agree with you, and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But know that they too are searching for their own contentment and you may be apart that that process for them, as they are for you. So be happy when things are going good, but be even more delighted when things aren’t going so good, because it is the not so good times that really teach us contentment.
5. The moment is complete and you can’t add to it, even if you tried, you can only be a part of it. How do we become the moment? Yogis often say “live in the moment”, but what about actually being the moment. On a very basic level we are asked to fully immerse ourselves into what is presented to us. A delayed flight to an important meeting, an angry spouse, a rude checkout clerk, a homeless person in a coffee shop, these things teach us to “be the moment” just as much as the perfect wedding day, a smile from a stranger, an unexpected gift from a friend, the list goes on. Santosha offers the idea that in becoming the moment we don’t chose, we take each one as it comes and offer gratitude for that experience. As each moment is necessary for us to accept the next. One not being any more important than the previous or the next, just as it should be in this very amazing sacred experience.