Santosha, the second of the 5 Niyamas, or personal practices in the Yoga Sutras, means complete acceptance or contentment.
Contentment and acceptance when the world is torn apart by divisiveness, fear and suffering? Really?! Believe me, I’m disappointed, disheartened and angry about the current social climate, policies and narrative in this country on the daily. So, how do we cultivate santosha so that we can remain steady in these times of suffering, turmoil and tragedy?
Last month I wrote about Saucha, the practice of purity & simplicity and gave ideas for how to begin such a practice. Contentment and acceptance are natural outflows of this simplicity, gifting us the space to move through adverse times and feelings of deep discomfort without disrupting our foundational contentment and acceptance of what we can or cannot change. It lends us the ability to see crisis as an opportunity for transformation, suffering as an opportunity to serve those around us.
Everyday it’s a choice, and it begins with the ability to find contentment within ourselves in those quiet moments alone in meditation, on your mat, or in whatever contemplative practice you like. Accepting who we are even when it may by ugly or disappointing.
It’s a choice to stay open to receiving the many gifts of joy, beauty and light in this world but we must be looking for them. When we let all the daily annoyances of life bog us down in frustration and irritation, we’re shutting ourselves off from contentment and only hurting ourselves with our inability to accept life on life’s terms.
Santosha isn’t checking out, stagnant or complacent. It’s active and can be our foundation even when we’re having a low day, when your teenagers are acting out, or you’ve lost a loved one, or your Mom has cancer, or you’ve just read the news. We all have the ability to absorb this difficult information, feel it deeply, yet accept that it is temporary.
That is santosha, and the key is to remain an observer of how and when we react to life happening all around us. When we can acknowledge the source of our annoyances and discomforts, we may shift perspective to see those external forces as completely outside of us, then choose to accept them as they are. And sometimes we can even change them.
It reminds me of the 12 step serenity prayer. I’ll paraphrase: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can, and believe in my wisdom to know the difference.”
Let’s choose to believe we are worthy of love, contentment and happiness
Let’s choose to notice what irritates & annoys us and let it go
Let’s choose to see crisis and suffering as an opportunity to transform
Let’s choose to breathe in acceptance & breathe out contentment
In loving acceptance,
WHY I WAKE EARLY
by Mary Oliver
Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety-
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light-
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.