Monday, July 13, 2009

Finding Contentment

Restore Your Attitude

When I first started studying the Yamas and Niyamas I was really struck by the concept of Santosha, or Contentment. I always thought I would be content when things in my life were just the way I wanted them: good job, enough money, enough free time, etc. But this idea of "when things are good I will be content" never comes to pass. Instead, you have to cultivate gratitude in your heart in order for contentment to settle in. The more you practice gratitude, the more contentment slips in.

I remember reading in Yoga of the Heart by Alice Christensen that Contentment is elusive because we are always thinking about the past or the future instead of resting in the present moment. That simple statement made a huge difference to me. I had heard before to rest in the present moment but without knowing what I was doing if I wasn't resting in the present moment, I couldn't figure out how to do this. Her labelling my thoughts as lolling about in memory (past events, should have, would have, what if) or fantasizing about the future (what if, when, I need to, as soon as) showed me that I was doing everything but sitting in the present moment.

For my practice I sit comfortably, close my eyes, calm my breath and start to name the things I am thankful for. I usually start off small and build up to more important things: Thank you for the green grass, thank you for the lilac blooms, thank you for my yoga practice, thank you for my partner, my dog, my mom, my dad, my sisters, brother, etc. Then I start labeling thankfulness for many things in my life that I wouldn't normally feel thankful for: Thank you for the learning experience of having a student with questions I don't know the answer to, thank you for the challenge of living in a fixer-upper house, thank you for the conflict in my life so I can look deeper inside myself, and so on.

When I have named all these things I am thankful for I realize how lucky I am and I realize how contentment has slipped into my life and filled me up.

Happy Exploring. Namaste.