Yoga Niyamas: Samtosa, or Contentment

Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah (Sutra 1.2) states that yoga is the calming of the fluctuations of the mind.

It’s a move away from the myriad distractions of knowledge, misconception, imagination, memory, and even sleep into a place of centered presence unaffected by these states of mind.

Is there such a place?

If you’ve ever experienced a moment of bliss, your rhythm aligned with the rhythm around you, in a state of pure and relaxed focus where it all seems simple and clear…you’ve experienced a bit of nirodaha.

These moments may be few and far between, but we practice to bring ourselves closer to finding this peace every moment, no matter what is going on around us.

The second niyama reflects this peace: samtosa.

Samtosa: Contentment

To maintain a sense of okayness

 

When firmly established in samtosa, you gain supreme joy.

 

I have enough. I receive enough. ⁠

Even contentment in the pain I endure. Through the ups and downs, it is as it should be. ⁠

To me this feels like equanimity. Gratitude, even.⁠

But beware of toxic positivity. ⁠

You don’t have to ignore suffering and call it good. You don’t have to gloss over the pain of others with platitudes of light and love (remember ahimsa, non-harming? Toxic positivity is harmful.) ⁠

You don’t have to fake happiness.⁠

Ways to live in the spirit of samtosa

-TKS Desikachar says the happiness we get from acquiring passions is only temporary. We need to find new ones and acquire them to sustain this sort of happiness. Makes sense, doesn’t it? Sri Swami Satchidananda says, “If something comes, let it come. If not, it doesn’t matter.” Try for this. This is contentment.

-Cultivate gratitude. When you’re feeling put out or put upon, or worrying about this or that, think “Okay, but what is something…anything…I can be grateful for right at this moment?” There is always something. Your health, bed, cat, friends, hairline, soft shirt, sunny day. Name and focus on the things you are grateful for, and you will find contentment, even when everything isn’t quite as you’d like it to be.

-Cultivate a sense of happiness within yourself. Notice when you might be going to external things to make you happy. Your attitude determines the lens through which you watch your life unfold. If you practice shifting your attitude, you will shift your experiences and your feelings towards them. Changing your attitude will change your life. Don’t know how to change your attitude? Practice any one of the yamas or niyamas. Stick with it. Perfect it.

-Recognize that happiness is not synonymous with contentment. It’s not possible to always be happy. Life is a collection of opposites: yin and yang, night and day, winter and summer, clear and confusing, sad and happy. Without one we wouldn’t be able to know the other, there would be nothing to compare it to. A life lived fully is a life that embraces the opposites. Contentment can be found in embracing your experience of both sides, and everything in between.

Sutra 2.42

 

For more on samtosha and the other niyamas click here

For the yamas click here

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