Yoga Contentment in Nature

Can We Be Content?

By Jessica Jordan

Yoga Sutra 2.42  

santosha anuttamah sukha labha

Santosha: Contentment

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. 

Gratitude

“I rarely laughed at my husband’s jokes.”

Recently I spoke at the Alzheimer’s Association Conference to support caregivers. After a short yoga practice of breath guided movements, the caregivers participated in a meditation that invited them to pause in gratitude for themselves, the choice they made to attend the conference and for the sacred work they do to care for their loved one, friend, family member.

An attendee caught my attention when leaving the stage and quietly leaned in to share her thoughts with me.

“I realized something during my meditation. I’m the primary caregiver for my husband who has Alzheimer’s. Before his diagnosis he always told jokes and I rarely laughed at them. Now when my husband tells a joke and laughs, I am more engaged. I am grateful for his laughter. We laugh together.”

Gratitude has a sneaky way of creating a substantial shift in our awareness. In many ways it asks us to ‘come to attention’ and be mindful, even if for a short pause.

Gratitude can encompass a grand gesture or a sincere, simple act. When acknowledged internally or externally with our full engagement, gratitude has a potent power that shifts a moment, an emotion, a person, a perspective and even more.

Can we really benefit from offering ourselves and others gratitude? Research continues to remind us – yes!

You’ve Got This – A short pause each day acknowledging what you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have, can shift emotions of sadness, anger and resentment to happiness, hope and appreciation.

Nice to Know You– Research states, saying ‘Thank You’ and acknowledging others contributions can lead to new opportunities and support healthy relationships.

It’s all connected -Body, Mind, Heart – In addition to relationships, studies show that an attitude of gratitude can motivate you to take care of yourself – to be active, to eat food that fuels your body and mind, which in turn can support your rest and sleep.

How do you fit the practice of gratitude into a busy life? Keep it simple. Pause, breathe, observe, give thanks, repeat.

Consider these short practices to sharpen your Attention and Intention. May your gratitude support the everyday grit and grace, fatigue and stamina, tears and joy, grand moments and quiet gestures.

Internal Gratitude:

Pause and Breathe Gratitude
• Place one hand near your heart and your other hand near your navel.
• Take 4-8 breaths observing the pace of your breath and the subtle movement of your body as you breathe.
• Focus your attention on your breath and body, letting your mind help you choose what you are grateful for at this moment.
• Describe what you are grateful for in a word or phrase. Take 4-8 more breaths to inhale and exhale your word or phrase of gratitude.

Gratitude Table at Your Heart Space
• Choose to take at least 5-minutes for this short meditation.
• Sit comfortably, close your eyes, breathe and notice the flow of your breath at the tip of your nose.
• Place your hand at the center of your upper body – heart space.
• Place your attention at your heart space.
• As you breathe connect to a mental image of light and place it at your heart space.
• As you inhale let this light expand.
• As you exhale rest your attention in this light.
• Give yourself time to create a mental image of a gratitude table placed in your light at the heart space.
• Let your personality shine through as you notice the details of this gratitude table that is meaningful to you.
• Mindfully observe what and who you are grateful for within your life and place it on the gratitude table.
• Take time to connect to what is a challenge for you at this time and place it on the gratitude table.
• Mindfully observe what you are grateful for about yourself and place it on the gratitude table.
• Illuminate all that is placed on your gratitude table as you inhale and exhale, breathing gratitude for what you have been graced with, for what is challenging at this time and for yourself.
• Take 4-8 more breaths inhaling and exhaling gratitude.

External Gratitude:

Connect with Someone
• Pause and decide who you’d like to connect with today.
• Sit down and create an email or choose a card to send – telling someone that you are thankful for them.
• Better yet, when you see someone who you are grateful for today, stop and look them in the eye and tell them, “I wanted you to know I am thankful for you.”

A Tangible Table
• Choose a table, a window sill, a shelf in your home.
• Take time to place a few (or many) objects that are meaningful to you on this space.
• Notice each object you choose, mindfully reflecting upon what the object symbolizes for you, individuals connected to this object, how it represents the richness of your life journey.
• Let this be a ‘table’ of gratitude that reminds you to pause, breathe, reflect and offer gratitude for your experiences, challenges, teachers, all that continues to guide you.
• Roll out your mat near this table and let it be a foundation for you as you practice your asana, pranayama, meditation.
• Sit near your gratitude table with a cup of tea, book, journal; or simple pause quietly and reconnect to your breath.

As we enter this season of reflection and thanksgiving, the Teachers and Therapists at 5 Koshas welcome you to:
• Explore and practice within the classes at 5 Koshas. May these support you in your intention and gratitude.
• Ask us for guidance with choosing a special gift for a favorite person or for yourself – a gift card, a book, a yoga mat, a DVD.
• Write your gratitude on a star and place it on a tree of light near the entry of 5 Koshas.

May your experiences this season be a balance of grand and quiet, internal and external; and may the collective energy of all our gracious actions support our intentions for ourselves, our loved ones and the communities we are connected to.

On behalf of the teachers and therapists at 5 Koshas, gratitude for each of you.