The meaning of “santosha”, to me

Quite simply, santosha is the Sanskrit term for “contentment” – one of the niyamas from the 8 limbs of ashtanga yoga. It is the peace that is already inside, independent from external sources. So to “chase santosha” is actually impossible and almost farcical, like the ocean reaching out to the rain for wetness. I found a lovely description of santosha on the web, from yogachicago.com:

“Contentment is serenity, but not complacency. It is comfort, but not submission; reconciliation, not apathy; acknowledgment, not aloofness. Contentment is a mental decision, a moral choice, a practiced observance, a step into the reality of the cosmos. Contentment/santosha is the natural state of our humanness and our divinity and allows for our creativity and love to emerge. It is knowing our place in the universe at every moment. It is unity with the largest, most abiding, reality.”

It’s difficult in the modern era to consistently be in a state of santosha when we are bombarded by media images telling us we are lacking in one way or another in order to sell us products and services to fix our shortcomings. We attach to people and things to secure our happiness, but when these things inevitably pass out of our lives we feel loss and sadness. So what does it mean to really be content?

Sometimes, clarity about this matter comes to me in waves.

It feels like jumping on a trampoline – I sail towards the heavens against the will of gravity and hover in space – weightless, breathless; my hair floats and my body seems to dissolve into the humid summer air like smoke. For a moment it seems there is only sky, endless blue punctuated by cheerful cumulous clouds, like poetry scrawled elegantly across the horizon. I can peek over the fence into the neighbor’s yard where there are hot dogs grilling tantalizingly on the barbeque and a dog sleeping happily in the luscious green grass. Time stands still and I am both completely alone and wholly connected. I feel like everything makes sense, everything is in harmony, and my existence is perfect in all its fleeting, tumultuous glory. I get to revel in all of all this – for only a rapturous moment – until gravity pulls me back to reality. Then, bounce! I hit the rubber surface and my sock feet remind me that there are limitations. This is my yard, with the dried up, yellow patches in the grass and peeling paint on the side of the house. I will not taste those hot dogs. My hair slaps my back like a whip as I come down and again I feel heavy, chained down, inadequate. I cannot fly. Yet the harder I fall and the greater force with which I push back, I soar higher. And then I fall harder. And soar higher. And so forth. Each time collecting a little more clarity, a little more wisdom, a little more perspective. And I get to hover in that perfect moment of stillness, of presence, a little longer. I begin to fear my decent a little less. And I come to realize: I don’t even like hot dogs.

And that’s what I’ve realized about happiness. It’s not about catapulting ourselves over the neighbor’s fence to where the grass is greener, into the spaces we wish to take up, into the life we think we should have. It’s about finding peace in those moments of clarity when we are weightless, fearless, and desiring of nothing. The trick is then to hold onto that, learning how to create in ourselves the ecstasy of peace and love through practice and perseverance. Even when we can’t see the sky, even when we feel like gravity has us hopelessly in its clutches. It’s about abolishing needless, self-imposed expectations and limitations. We are conscious beings who have the luxurious capability of realizing our innate divinity, but with the unfortunate universal tendency to find fault in our situations and ourselves that keeps us stuck to the ground. Thus, it’s not about chasing santosha, but rather embodying it, and finding gratitude in the pure fact that we get to be. And in a state of being, santosha appears before us – once we open our eyes.

So it is my work, my practice, to relinquish the comforting yet frustrating feelings of mediocrity and find peace. To accept the ups and downs knowing that nothing is permanent.  And begin to listen to the deafening, unavoidable truth that I want more. I am more. I’m prepared to be a channel for whatever message the universe needs to manifest through me. And in this, I am content.

 

 

 

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Shannon
    Aug 23, 2011 @ 07:50:41

    I love the way you write! Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

  2. joanne
    Mar 06, 2014 @ 00:12:22

    Hi I really like your description of what santosha means to you! I provided a subtle link in my blog post today to your post (if someone clicks the word santosha, it will take them here). Hope that is oK!!! Namaste from Japan,

    Reply

  3. CH
    Mar 27, 2014 @ 21:04:09

    thank you for this. so perfect.

    Reply

  4. Sheree
    Jun 18, 2014 @ 08:06:24

    Marvelous, what a weblog it is! This website gives valuable
    data to us, keep it up.

    Reply

  5. Trackback: The Second Niyama: Santosha - Power Yoga Daily

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