Email : Week 10, Root & Bloom, by Laurie G
NIYAMA II. SANTOSHA:: संतोष >>> CONTENTMENT
“… life’s challenges may disturb the surface of the sea,
but we don’t give them the power to affect the calm depths of our inner being. ”
- Joseph Le Page
Santosha ::: What It Is & What It Isn’t
Three translations of Chapter II V 42 of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras explain Santosha and it’s fruits as such::: “When at peace and content with oneself and others (Santosha), supreme joy is celebrated .” -Nischala Joy Devi ; “The result of contentment is totalhappiness.”-Desikachar “From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness .”- BKS Iyengar
At the heart of SANTOSHA is a willingness to be with what is as it is, to dwell in the depths and be at peace.
Ok Let’s Pause Here Please… Deep Breath.
Before I write another word- let me just say here- this i s not about being complacent in the face of injustice, bigotry, greed and hatred. It i s not about drawing a little circle around yourself and being ok with things as long as you’re not directly affected by the situation (or even when you are). Santosha i s not a justification for remaining passive when compassionate action is necessary. N or is it to be used as an excuse to stay wound tight in the chains of habits and patterns that are causing you to suffer or preventing you from thriving. This i s not about stagnation.
Santosha is our capacity to connect in with an abiding sense of ease and calm. It is about finding a kind of happiness within that is isn’t dependent on external situations/factors being a certain way. All too often we are convinced we need something or someone out there to make us happy… or we are dependent on something coming to pass before we think we can be happy. The moment we attach our happiness to something out there- to things that are inevitably bound to change, we are bound to suffer. It is about our capacity to connect in with an inner reserve of ok-ness and a patience that runs deep.
When we are able to maintain a sense of equanimity and find acceptance of ourselves and whatever situation we find ourselves in- this is contentment. In the Ultimate sense, we are relaxing back into the fullness and knowing of our true nature. When we are so focused on craving what we don’t have, or what someone else has, we lose sight of all that we do have. We are not living with Santosha. With an economy that thrives based on products created to address our individual and collective sense of not-enoughness, dwelling in contentment and enough-ness is revolutionary.
“Enough. These few words are enough. If not these words, this breath. If not this breath, this sitting here. This opening to life we have refused again and again until now. Until now.”
Presence & Gratitude as Doorways In
“Contentment is falling in love with your life. ”
When we are wholeheartedly present in our lives, we are able to see the beauty that is right in front of us, in the ordinary details of our extraordinary lives. If you have the experience of working with a daily practice of gratitude you already know how it becomes a doorway from not enoughness to enough / discontent to contentment. Gratitude requires showing up and paying attention to all of the blessings, the beauty and lessons in our lives. Feeling and expressing gratitude are essential practices in living Santosha. When we are in gratitude we find joy. When we are in gratitude, a sense of lack loses its stranglehold on the flow of energy coursing through us and moving as us in the world. Gratitude reorients our focus from what isn’t to what is.
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance .”
“It isn't what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it .”
“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
What We Allow to Get in the Way of Santosha
>>>THE 8 Worldly thoughts
In studying Tibetan Buddhism I was introduced to the concept of the 8 Worldly Thoughts. Perhaps in reviewing the list you’ll see how these serve as the core motivation for many choices we make and actions we take in our pursuit of happiness. We expend so much energy in pursuit or avoidance of these. It is said that we are all the same in that we want to be happy and we don’t want to suffer- the problem is that we have mistaken ideas about what can bring true and lasting happiness and in our pursuit of it, we cause great suffering for ourselves and each other. Take a look....
➢ I’m happy when I get what I want (possessions and the like).
➢ I’m unhappy when I don’t
➢ I’m happy when people like me.
➢ I’m unhappy when they don’t.
➢ I’m happy when I have a good reputation.
➢ I’m unhappy when I don’t
➢ I’m happy when what I don’t want stays away from me.
➢ I’m unhappy when what I don’t want comes to me.
Lama Yeshe calls this the Yo Yo life, “ I get a present! I feel so happy!” “I lost that wonderful gift. I’m so unhappy.” Somebody says “You’re wonderful,” and we feel up; somebody says, “You made a mistake,” then our mood goes down .” Thubten Chodron, a Buddhist Nun expanded on this saying, “This constant yo-yo mind is dependent on external objects and people and leaves us oblivious to how our mind is the actual source of our happiness and misery…..Life becomes a battle with the environment and the people in it, as we try to be near everything we like and get far away from or destroy anything we dislike. This brings us so much grief and suffering because our mind is so reactive .”
Now this isn’t to say we should walk around without preferences for things being one way or the other. It’s ok to want things. It’s also essential to recognize that people aren’t always going to like us and that we won’t always have a good reputation. We will get sick. Things aren’t going to be easy. We are here in these bodies in the muck of the world and there will be challenges. And even when we get what we want and people do like us and all of the rest- until and unless we have found true peace within ourselves- and an abiding peace-none of that has the capacity to bring us happiness let alone a happiness that lasts.
“Discontentment is the illusion that there can be something else in the moment. There isn’t and there can’t be. That means if I am bored or sad, I will only be discontented if I am not content to be bored and sad. Building contentment with boredom, sadness, impatience, depression, disappointment, and loss, builds our ability to be that tall tree so rooted in the earth that great winds cannot topple it. Being content with our discontentment is itself a gateway to the calm depths within.” -Deborah Adele
Indeed in the midst of discontent, it is frequently our perpetual war with our own expectations… or seeing what is as it is and accepting it as such... that causes us to suffer most. And in the midst of great challenges, gifts can be found.
>>>The Stone Cutter
There’s this great li’l tale shared in Benjamin Hoff’s THE TAO OF POOH. I’ll sum it up for you here. So there’s this guy and he’s a stone cutter and his work is hard and his days are long...and hot. And one day as he’s sweating, exhausted, chipping away and lamenting his life and this procession comes through and everyone is required to stop what they are doing and bow down to the wealthy merchant passing by. As he does so, he thinks to himself, “Wow. He’s so wealthy, respected and powerful. I wish I could be that guy- feared and respected, carried around in a sedan chair. ” And just like that he becomes him. And he’s being carried around and everyone’s bowing down, but the sun is beating down on him and it’s relentless, strong and out of his control. “I wish I could be the sun .” Boom. He becomes the sun and farmers are cursing him for scorching their fields and he’s literally on fire and feeling super powerful… until a storm cloud comes carried by the wind and blocks him. You get where this is going right? “How powerful the wind is. How I wish I could become the wind. ” And he does. And he’s blowing and bending everything in his path until he comes to something he can’t budge- this huge boulder- unmovable. Again he wishes. Again he transforms. Feeling strong, solid and unbreakable, until he feels himself being altered, chipped away. He looks down into his shadow and sees the unmistakable image of a stone cutter.
THIS WEEK’S PRACTICE
MEDITATION & MUDRA(S)
This week’s meditation makes use of two mudras. The first which contributes to a sense of balance, calm, ease and contentment and the second to groundedness and wisdom.
The first is Chaturmkham Mudra or the Gesture of Four Faces. This is a hand position associated with Brahma- the Creator God- and is said to prepare he ground of the mind for meditation and help it rest in equanimity. To form this mudra bring the palms belly level facing each other. Join the fingertips of the left hand to the fingertips of the right hand. Thumbs extend towards the sky. The second is Gyan Mudra- which is formed by joining the thumb and index fingers (space & air). In this version we place the hands face down on the thighs.
Om Shrim Hrim Klim Maha Lakshmi Namaha :
Praise & Salutations to Lakshmi
OM is the primordial sound- uttering it is a way of attuning to the energy of the Infinite and opening/clearing the mind for meditation. SHRIM is a seed sound associated with lunar energy as well as Lakshmi-- it is related to abundance (in both the physical and spiritual planes) and feelings of love and devotion. It is said to draw to us all that serves our development. HRIM is a seed connected to the Divine Feminine and the Goddess- Her creative, sustaining and destructive powers. It is connected with the heart. KLIM is associated with the magnetic energy of desire that helps make our wishes manifest. It brings contentment and ease of mind. MAHA is great. LAKSHMI is a Goddess of abundance and prosperity of the material and spiritual realms - who is the embodiment of beauty and grace. When we call on Her we are invoking Her qualities within us and draw Her ever near.
NAMAHA is praise/salutations.
I offered the traditional 108 repetitions of this mantra- and added a couple of extras at the end (as usual… just in case mind wandered or count was accelerated).
[If you are interested in learning more about the power of shakti mantras- you might want to check the book of the same name by Thomas Ashley-Farrand or Mantra Yoga and Primordial Sound by David Frawley. This translation inspired in part by the latter.]
*I am not financially affiliated with Root & Bloom. I only wish to share good medicine when it comes my way.
I hope Laurie's medicine strikes a cord in you as it does me.
Wishing you contentment, joy, and enoughness.