We continue our journey studying the niyamas, Sanskrit for 'observances.' These observances are part of our personal practice and recommended for our yogic journey. Though the niyamas are more for individual practice, they can and will seep into our surrounding world. Our next niyama is Santosha Sanskrit for contentment or acceptance.
Our lives in the Western world are quite hectic and filled with constant striving. We are conditioned to be continually seeking. How often has a favorite food of yours been repackaged? How many times have you gone to the store to see these items emblazoned with "New Package," "New Flavor," or "New Recipe." How often have you heard that someone has "re-invented themselves" or the like? In our culture, we applaud constant striving, and we have disdain for contentment. This is a potent force to counterbalance and attempt to diminish.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states that "By contentment, supreme joy is gained." We are so accustomed to viewing happiness as one end of the spectrum with depression at the other end. However, by staying in the middle, by finding contentment in all of the things in our life, we find supreme joy. This means not seeking some other outside of ourselves. It means to truly be content with what we are experiencing at every moment.
Indeed, we know that there are very unpleasant moments that life can throw us. How should we approach those moments? We approach them by experiencing them without despair. We can find peace by thinking of the old refrain, "This too shall pass." We can find contentment that nothing is forever, especially the tough times. At those moments where we seek to balm the emotional or physical wounds we have endured, we can rest assured that it is temporary. Now, we must use discernment as well. If we are in a situation where we are being hurt, emotionally or physically, we must find a way to mitigate the damage. It is far worse to continue to suffer while merely hoping for it all to pass.
We have a powerful tool to counter the constant bombardment of discontentment. That is gratitude. By invoking gratitude at the time that we feel discontent, we begin to shift our awareness. We shift our thinking from that of lacking to that of abundance. For example, your best friend just purchased her brand-new BMW SUV. It is a 2021 model with all the bells and whistles in the color that you just adore. You have a similar vehicle, maybe a few years older. You've been thinking about trading it in, but you are near paying off your current car. As you scroll through your friend's Facebook or Instagram feed, chock a block with vivid pictures of her new wheels, you can't help but feel like you are missing out on this situation. After all, that 'New Car Smell' is intoxicating. How would your thinking shift if you began to recall the many wonderful attributes of your car? The unforgettable moments you've experienced with a friend or family member on road trips. All of a sudden, you are grateful for this car that you've had wonderful moments in. You have achieved contentment and, ultimately, peace.
This is all easier said than done. So, start small. Maybe begin a gratitude journal. Set your alarm clock for 5 or 10 minutes earlier than you are used to and keep a notebook by your bedside. Before you even get up from your bed, write down five things you are grateful for every day. Notice the changes in your outlook.
Frank de la Cruz, E-RYT 200, YACEP is a Yoga teacher and writer who lives in Central Florida. Frank began his Yoga journey in 2011 and strongly believes that Yoga is for everyBODY.