Santosha: peace, happiness, and satisfaction
Practice, practice, practice and all is coming. -Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
Remember that old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? If you said, “from Central Park head two blocks north; it’s between 56th and 57th on Seventh Ave,” please take note that a much funnier answer to the joke is “practice.”
It's funny because its true. Furthermore, whatever you practice the most is what you get good at. For example, if you practice violin very rarely, you are probably not in the fast lane on the fast road to play your violin at Carnegie Hall. In fact, if you want to perform your solo violin concerto #108 in front of the 3,000 plus audience, the more you practice the better. The practice could turn you into a great violinist.
Isn’t that interesting that you become what you practice? However, due to this you must only practice what you want to become. Do you want to be a great artist? Practice art. Do you want to be a great cook? Practice making food. Do you want to be a junk food junkie? Open wide. Do you want to be a sad musician? Practice whining and complaining. Do you want to be a happy and content yogi? Practice yoga!
Although a daily dose of vinyasa yoga flow class may be just what the celestial yoga doctor Dhavantri ordered, make sure not to neglect the important and nonphysical practices of yoga. This first practice will lead us to long term happiness, so let's take a look at the yoga practice of Santosha, or contentment.
What exactly is it to be content? According to the dictionary, content is a state of peaceful happiness or satisfaction. How can we achieve this state of peace, happiness, and satisfaction? Yogis find it with a practice of eliminating desire from as many aspects of their lives as possible. Yoga masters liberate themselves from all desire. If you stop wanting, you become happy. This is ironic because whether you know it or not you are already intrinsically happy and drawn to pleasant things. This practice of Santosha, if done correctly and mindfully, is guaranteed to bring peace and happiness to the yoga practitioner.
“Being content is perhaps no less easy than playing the violin well: and requires no less practice.” -Alain de Botton
“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” -Dale Carnegie
Here are some great ways to practice contentment (Santosha): Create a contentment ritual filled with the focus of gratitude. Make it top priority to not only practice but increase the duration of giving thanks for the wonderful things that reside in the positive perspective realm. If you have a pessimistic perspective find the intention to shift it. In music, the first time you try to press the string into the neck and drag a bow across the instrument it is likely to make a sound that is less than pleasant. Slow down the metronome and take it note for note slowly, presently, patiently, and without attachment. Stay diligent in your refinement and before too long you can produce a beautiful sound that reverberates expression out through your soul. This is the practice that will allow you to get better and progress at a level suitable for you. To practice yoga santosha, find one thing to be thankful for and bask in it for two to three minutes. Try to add either another thing in your life to be thankful for or increase the thankful basking time by one minute. Set a timer so that you can focus fully on your contentment. Step it up a couple of notches and try a combination of one more thing to be thankful for one more minute per practice per day. What you focus on the most will eventually create a path or groove (samskara) for your new and improved view on anything and everything. The more you practice the better the results. Remember desire leads to suffering, so always create time to appreciate what you have. Do not get stuck in the mind trap that the grass is greener on the other side because its probably not. But so what if it is, who cares? Not even the greatest yogi can notice how green it is under their own feet if they are fixated on the yard next door trying to get a glimpse of the colors over the neighbor's fence.
Do not forget that the more you practice it the easier it gets. Keep it slow and steady it’s very important to stay consistent. Give it a little patience and some time and if you do this practice regularly I promise this yoga path of Santosha will lead to lasting happiness and fulfillment for you and those around you.
“He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” -Socrates
Through marketing and control tactics we are programmed to consume and horde as much as possible in order to fill that empty space of insecurity deep inside. People are consuming more effectively than ever before in our known history. They are playing us with our own lack of self confidence in order to profit. We are being manipulated into believing that more material possessions equals more happiness. We are made to feel the need to have more than everyone else. We are trained not to care where our material possessions come from and who and what they hurt when they are made. We are encouraged to want until we get and then forget and move on to the next thing. As we are being brainwashed, are we forgetting who and what we really are? Are we really ready to ask ourselves 'do we really need all this'?
“We just wanna be the happy bums that we are. That's all.” -Mike Patton
Sadhu are holy yogis who have renounced everything including the clothes on their backs. They rub ash into their skin in place of garments. They meditate and practice yoga postures as daily ritual. Wandering from holy city to holy city with no attachments to family, job, or material objects. No income means no food and as you can imagine these monks are both homeless and emaciated so it is encouraged to give them food for their survival. Even though these transient travelers lead their lives as self-chosen starving vagabonds, most of them that you will see walking around in India have an almost magical twinkle in their eyes, bright smiles from ear to ear, giving praise for being lucky enough to be in the now. They are close enough to touch blissful enlightenment with their fingertip, filling the vessel with the philosophy of no sad regrets of the past you cannot change, no anxious worries about the future that never happens. Just living completely content with right now. When this happens we become awake and aware of the true reality. This is why the Sadhu priests travel from city to city never staying in the same place: moving on will not allow them to become attached. Yoga Sadhus spend this entire lifetime teaching yoga ritual and attending sacred festivals. These gurus help lead you from the ignorance of darkness to the intelligence of enlightenment. Real sadhus do not take money for this. Although these homeless naked yoga monks have almost no material possessions and spend most of their time praying and camping in the caves of the Himalayas for a living, these devotion-oriented worshipers love life and everything about it. Completely content in every aspect because they are fearless of life and death, accepting fate based on a master plan where faith creates a perfect balance of divinity in the universe.
"Behold the birds of the air for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly father feeds them." -Jesus
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