Cultivating Contentment

noun kən-ˈtent-mənt : the state of being happy and satisfied : the state of being content

We all want happiness and contentment.  My teacher, Gary Kraftsow, says that santosha, the Sanskrit word for contentment, is “the way you take experience.”  It’s an internal state of mind and attitude that permeates your internal being, words and actions.

Contentment is one of the niyamas (internal observances) discussed in the Yoga Sutra-s of Patanjali.  It’s not something we seek, it’s something we cultivate through the practice of gratitude and not grasping.

Contentment is the quality of taking in experience without seeking or avoiding. Cultivating contentment helps us to gracefully move through changes, not clinging to the past or grasping for the future.  It’s living the life you have with grace.

Swami Rama, the great Himalayan yogi master, said that “contentment is falling in love with your life as it is.”  It is a way of being that continually calls us to remember what we are grateful for.

Cultivating contentment requires self-study and a discerning observation of our thoughts, words and deeds.  Through self-study and observation, we can root out suffering that often comes in the form of petty jealousies, grasping for things that we haven’t earned, worrying about the future and our lack of seeing the extraordinary in the very ordinary of our relationships and possessions.

How do you start to cultivate contentment?  It might be as simple as a ritual of “taking stock” every day of what you are truly grateful for.  It might be taking a few minutes to observe your own patterns of clinging to what you like and running from what’s hard.  Awareness and gratitude are the first steps toward falling in love with your life, even through the most difficult moments.

Mary Hilliker, RDN, E-RYT 500, C-IAYT is a Certified Viniyoga Teacher and Yoga Therapist and Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with 5 Koshas Yoga and Wellness Center and River Flow Yoga Teacher Training School in Wausau WI. Mary offers individualized Yoga Therapy and nutrition counseling. She teaches therapeutic and wellness yoga classes, mini-retreats, workshops, webinars and yoga teacher training.