CULTIVATING CONTENTMENT

One of the most powerful teachings of Yoga is probably the art of cultivating contentment. Santosha in Sanskrit.

It is easy to be content when our asana practice and our life flow effortlessly, when everything is just the way we want it to be. But we all know it is not always like that. Practice and career come to a stall, relationships turn sour, bank accounts shrink, unpleasant emotions surface. Just Life happening. And it is so, so hard to be content when life take those unexpected turns. How can we content when we just want things to change, to go back to what they used to be, or to improve? How can we be content when we just want more out of this life?

First, by observing and accepting what is. It is as easy and as difficult as that. In the face of difficulties, you (and I) have to apply the lessons learned on the mat: observe what is going on. Why am I stuck? Why does it feel so unpleasant? Why does it even hurt? Observe with complete honesty, feel the tension, and breathe into it. Create space in your body, mind, and heart, and let go. I know you just want to hold tight, but no that is not the answer. By holding on, or by trying to make things happen when the time is not right you will just end up hurting yourself. Try not to judge, to label things as bad or good. Do not forget that events are neither good nor bad. They are neutral. It is your mind that labels everything according to your experiences and your needs. And you, my Dear, are not your mind. You are the Observer. Always. So take the situation as it is, and cultivate love and respect, both towards your self and the others.

This doesn’t mean that we should give up or remain passive, not at all. It just means we are accepting our current situation while keeping our eyes on the goal. If you find it too hard to do, I suggest you develop a regular meditation practice (I know, who has time for that when life turns upside down?). Start with 5 mn, and slowly build your way up to 30 mn a day. There is nothing to do here, except staying with your Self in silence. Just observing, and accepting whatever arises: thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations. Let them be, and let them go, one at a time.

Second, when you are finally at peace, focus on the task at hand: if a door has closed, instead of focusing on it, shift your focus to the other ones that are still open, or better yet, the ones you can create yourself. Focus on what you can improve, on what you can change. Put all your mind into it, and let it get absorbed in whatever activity you engage into. Work skillfully with what you have, at your own pace, without forcing things that are not ready to happen.  No more negative self-talk, impatience or frustration. Just do what needs to be done to go a little further, with all your heart, grace, attention and resilience.

Om shanti.

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