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Contentment is a state of being that allows us to be happy in the midst of whatever is happening around us. It doesn’t mean we are complacent and are no longer trying to affect our lives with our actions. It means we do what we can to the best of our ability. At some point, however, we are left to settle with what remains, to come to terms with what is actually happening in the moment.

This practice of contentment builds a sense of gentleness and tolerance in our lives.

Yoga teaches Santosha (contentment) as one of its precepts. It’s a practice of being right here, right now without wishing or wanting things to be different. This sounds great in theory, and perhaps it sounds easy when things are going our way. But what happens when things don’t go our way? Can we bring that same sense of contentment with us to the raw and prickly edges of the moment? How do we determine when to act and when to surrender? Santosha is a practice that requires some skill, practice, and refinement.

Letting Go of Discomfort

Our Yoga practice is great training ground for developing the feeling of contentment and practicing surrendering to the moment. To integrate the practice into our daily yoga, we can begin each practice session by calling ourselves into the body just as it is right here and right now. Survey the body for any tensions or patterns of discomfort and then take a moment to send relaxation to those areas. Gently encourage yourself to let go of the patterns of tension within your reach. This may take several breaths as you direct the breath to facilitate unwinding in the body. You may even try to imagine sending the gentle breath around and through those areas of lingering tension in the body and mind.

Making an Internal Shift

At some point when you have let go of tensions within your reach, you are ready to make an internal shift. This means shifting away from the expectation of feeling a certain way, being perfect, or getting it right, shifting away from the “If only’s” to let yourself settle. Now you can work with Santosha as you develop an “ok ness” with where you are right now. Maybe there is lingering tension in your body or mind, or negative emotions in your heart. Right here in this moment, try to embrace what is. Begin to make friends with yourself. Accepting yourself just as you are. You can use the anchor of breath and breathing to keep coming back to the moment. When you catch yourself pushing and pulling, longing and hoping for things to be different, return to breath and begin to settle in even more.

Finding Contentment in Postures

We can then bring this practice onto the yoga mat for the practice of postures. We put ourselves in a pose and we come right up to our edge of comfort/discomfort and we start to breath and loosen our grip on our selves. We see if we can settle. We don’t push or pull or throw our limbs around, but we find that subtle edge of discomfort and we practice being comfortable there. Can I make friends with any lingering discomfort or do I need to come out of the pose? This kind of self-talk sets the stage for Santosha.

From Postures to Daily Life

Once we have spent time on the mat, we can start to bring that work into our lives and the situations we face on a daily basis. There is something magical that happens when we start to accept our conditions and ourselves. We start to broaden our scope of “ok ness” with ourselves and with others. When we find ourselves in the midst of difficulty we can begin to surrender to what is. This practice of contentment builds a sense of gentleness and tolerance in our lives. It lengthens our fuse and provides us with a perspective that can improve our sense of health and well-being.

The next time you are in a tight spot and you feel uncomfortable, see if you can make friends with your discomfort. Settle into the moment and surrender to what is.

What activities or thoughts help you shift and settle into the moment?

Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

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