Head Space

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.” Buddha

How does one ‘practice’ contentment? Contentment, or Santosha - the second Niyama, seems to be the result of other actions.

It is both the way and the result.

The practice of contentment begins with presence.

Simplified, presence means being aware of where you are, how you feel, what you see, hear, smell, taste, right now, in this moment, without distraction. No monologue about it, no judgment of good or bad, no need to explain it. You are just here. Right now. And all is well. Pure Joy.

Conceptually, it seems easy. In practice, however, the mind inserts itself and opinions into that precious present moment. If we think of thoughts as children just needing a little attention, they can be easier to manage. Just as you may say to a child, “I see you, I’ll be right there, please give me a moment,” you can employ mindfulness techniques to achieve the same result with your thoughts.

Most of us have felt this sense of complete joy. It’s that knowing, that in this moment, all is as it is supposed to be. It may wash over you for no discernable reason, at the strangest time, but you recognize it.

This is contentment by default. You have relaxed enough, let go of preferences and prejudices just long enough, for the doorway to consciousness to open a crack and allow the light to slip through and tap you on the shoulder. “This is the way it always is. This is your true nature,” it is telling you. You believe otherwise.

You think you must do something – work - to create contentment. But contentment cannot be manufactured. Seeking contentment by avoiding anything that feels like its opposite is not the answer. Indeed, striving for what we believe will make us happy and avoiding what we believe will make us unhappy, polarizes us and moves us away from the center where contentment lives – the present moment.

There is nothing to work toward, nothing more to acquire. It is about subtraction. Contentment cannot be found in our things, but it is not necessarily found in letting go of things, either. It is not the things at all, but our attachment to those things. We can give away every single possession we own and still find contentment elusive. But, when we let go of our need to have these things, rather than the physical objects, themselves, we are getting somewhere.

“Contentment consists not in adding more fuel, but in taking away some fire.” Thomas Fuller.

Contentment can be cultivated, however. It can grow to become more than a random moment of peace that happens to us. It becomes a practice we carry with us, an abiding calm always accessible to us.

Meditation, Yoga Nidra, mindfulness, breath work and gratitude are common ways to cultivate contentment. Each practice is a different door into the same room. It is less about which practice and more about commitment to a practice. They will all work.

So often, when we consider a new practice, we are concerned it will change us. And while we understand that is the point of beginning a new practice, the ego will protect itself – the personality will hold onto beliefs it has constructed to survive. With contentment, there is no need to change. Instead, it is a practice of allowing space and silence to remember your own divine nature. You cannot acquire anything to complete you; you are already complete. You already have everything you need.

As a result, the best aspects of your personality remain while the parts that were protecting perceived vulnerabilities drop away, leaving a shiny new, relaxed version of yourself. This is presence. This is contentment.

“There is no end of craving. Hence contentment alone is the best way to happiness. Therefore, acquire contentment.” Swami Sivananda.

 

 

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