Curling up with my kitty cat and hearing him purr is pure contentment. It invites me fully into the present moment and warms my heart. The guideline of Santosha, contentment, invites us into this place of calm abiding. Santosha is like a tall tree so rooted in the earth that great winds cannot topple it. No matter what is happening on the outside we can practice gratitude and non-seeking to help us stay rooted in this jewel.

It is longing that keeps contentment out of our grasp. It seems we are often getting ready to live instead of being fully in the present moment. When we are little we can’t wait to get big, when we are big, we can’t wait to get out of the house, then we can’t wait to get through school or get a job, then we can’t wait until our vacations, and finally, we can’t wait until retirement. We also tend to look at other peoples’ lives and see what is missing in our own. We look across the fence and see what we don’t have, rather than look inside the fence and enjoy what we do have. When we expect the world to meet our needs, we turn outside of ourselves to find sustenance and completion. We expect our partners to fulfill us, our jobs to meet our needs, and success to solve all of our problems. And when it doesn’t we continue to play the “if only” game, looking for that one more thing. We let our contentment be managed by all these uncontrollable variables. As long as we think satisfaction comes from an external source, we can never be content. Looking outward for fulfillment will always disappoint us and keep contentment one step out of reach.

The Yogis tell us that things are neutral. It is the personal labelling we put on these things that makes them appealing or repulsive to us. It is our need to satisfy our preferences that keeps us from contentment. True freedom and contentment begin to find their way to us when we can see things as neutral and not spend so much energy manipulating things according to our preferences. A 116 year old man, who, when asked the secret to his longevity, replied, “when it rains, I let it.”

It is not easy to stay contented in this culture. There is always the next thing to get or to upgrade. Or there is the rush of modern life that prevents us from slowing down to smell the roses. Practicing gratitude protects us from our own pettiness and smallness and keeps us centered in the joy and abundance of our life. The mystic Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank you’ that would suffice”. When we cultivate gratitude even when we are content, we strengthen that attitude and make gratitude easier to access when needed. Gratefulness does for our heart center what food does for our bodies. It nourishes us and creates a sense of fulfilment. Slowing down, stepping back, and appreciated the little things in life creates inner happiness. Nicolai Bachman said “Gratefulness is feeling great and full of joy with who we are and what we have”.

There is paradox to Santosha: The more we seek it or need it to look a certain way, the more it eludes us. It is easy to be content when we feel great and things are going our way and we like ourselves. But what about when there are interruptions or chaos, or we feel sad or lonely? Discontentment is the illusion that there can be something else in the moment. There isn’t and there can’t be. The moment is complete, right now, just the way it is. Being content with our discontentment is itself a gateway to the calm depths within. This paradox of not seeking contentment, allows us to appreciate what we have. Swami Rama said it beautifully, “Contentment is falling in love with your life.” In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy embarked on a long journey to discover that she already had contentment where she was.

When we are purely with the moment (Saucha), the moment is complete. We miss contentment when we do something in the moment to fulfill an expectation for another moment. Can we practice Yoga to simply enjoy the movement and breathe in our body, instead of practicing to get our bodies to look a certain way? Can we wash the dishes and simply just wash the dishes in that moment? When action is complete in the moment, and the process is enjoyed for the pure joy of the process, action becomes being, and being becomes contentment. Then we can then live fully in the tranquility of contentment. Life is complete the way it comes to us in each moment. There is nothing missing. When we fully come to understand this, we sink into contentment.

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