Can We Be Content?
By Jessica Jordan
Yoga Sutra 2.42
santosha anuttamah sukha labha
Anuttamah: extreme, ultimate, unparalleled
Sukha: pleasure, happiness
Labha: arises, gained, benefit
Yoga sutra 2.42 focuses on contentment, achieving unparalleled happiness by engaging the contentment already within us. But how do we put this into practice?
We are constantly exposed to a barrage of television and internet influences as to what is normal and expected of us, contributing to our lack of contentment. “If I just had that one more thing, then I’d really be happy.” “If I could just get a bigger house, then I’d be happy.” And in a world of online shopping, our instant happiness is just two shipping days away.
The happiness we get from acquiring passions is only temporary. We need to find new ones to sustain this sort of happiness. There is no end to it. But true contentment, leading to total happiness and bliss, is in a class by itself. (Desikachar)
In the Western world, I think most of our lack of contentment comes from trying to keep up with some unrealistic measures of who we’re supposed to be. Where does the “idea” of who we’re supposed to be even come from?
Look around. We are trained our whole lives on what we should and shouldn’t do and say. “What should I wear to this event?” “What kind of car should I drive?” “How much should I participate in my child’s sports program?” “If I say what I really think, will it offend someone?”
Which brings me back to my original question: Can we be content? And how do we do it when external forces are constantly pushing us in different directions?
Our contentment comes from within. Sutra 2.42 tells us it’s already with us. It’s a niyama to practice in order to come closer to the happiness that we already have.
From perfect contentment arises unparalleled happiness. (Moors)
From contentment one gains supreme happiness. (Mukunda Stiles)
There are two practices I try to use in my daily life with guidance from this sutra. I ask myself, “Do I really need that?” “Do I really even want that?” “Is that going to make me happier?” “Is that going to make my life better?” By retraining myself to ask these questions, I’ve started to see that there really isn’t much I truly need to be content.
The second practice is one I use before I meditate. I think of all the things I’m grateful for that I already have. This way, I am retraining myself to notice what is already so wonderful in my life and experience contentment from these observations. Believe me, my list of blessings just keeps getting longer.
Jessica Jordan is a Certified Yoga Teacher, 2020 Graduate of the 200 hour River Flow Yoga Teacher Training at 5 Koshas Yoga & Wellness. She lives with her family in Highbridge, WI.