A Practice of Contentment

In our first Breath+Sutras gathering we took time to connect with ourselves and our community allowing for space and freedom to explore new ideas, old fears, and most of all hope for a better way of life.

As a group we joined in Pranayama (breath exercises) and took turns guiding each other through a variety of grounding, mentally stimulating, clarifying, and balancing breath work. After 30 minutes of connection we were ready to open up.

A theme that came up in our discussion was the practice of Santosha (contentment). This principle shows up in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali within the Niyamas, the 2nd of the 8 Limbs of Yoga.

In order to practice contentment with oneself and one’s life, a simultaneous practice of gratitude is inherent. How can one be content without also acknowledging anything there is to be grateful for, regardless of the size or shape of it? Whether it is appreciating the home we work so hard to live in, the food we have available for sustenance, or the people we choose to spend our time and energy with…contentment stems from gratitude.

Many of us also fall into the trap of thinking these concepts only matter in big and grand gestures—the life events that we think will make or break us like marriages, divorces, relationships with our parents or children, death of a loved one, and so on. I argue that it is in the smaller day-to-day moments that these practices of gratitude and contentment matter most.

If we practiced every day to appreciate something, the practice of contentment will naturally evolve and strengthen with less and less conscious effort. Beautiful weather, sunshine, clear skies, safe and open roads, trees that live and breathe and provide cover, hugs and kisses, conversations, cuddles with our pets for as long as we have them, love, friendship, our strength, our flexibility, our resilience and all of the above whether in the past, present, or possible future…can remind us that the potential for hope and goodness is endless.

And it is not that we are pretending to be happy, forcing positivity, faking optimism, judging those who don’t, ignoring that which brings us pain, suppressing our fears, bottling up the emotions that cause discomfort and pushing away what feels raw and real for what we prefer to feel. On the contrary, with this practice we are then able to see the pain, the discomfort, the challenges, the vulnerability much more clearly and with that we can make a choice to do something about the reality in which we find ourselves.

Do we choose to complain, stress over and worry about things we cannot change? Or do we focus on what we do have and can do, for ourselves, for our loved ones, for our community, and the world? Do we choose to be and help others to live the best possible life we can possibly live? Do we make the most of every day, embracing all that we are, all that we feel, with love and acceptance that we are only human and remember that we can choose to do and be better, always?

Even in the darkest of times—or maybe most especially then—I have faith that the latter is true.

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