It is the dead of summer in Albuquerque as I write this, that time when a slowness descends in the afternoons, and at time an anxiousness, waiting for rain to fall or temperatures to change. We tell each other how hot it is, how we’re ready for fall.
Perhaps it’s exactly the right time to focus on the theme of santosha, which translates to mean “contentment.”
When I think about the concept of contentment, I recognize it pretty immediately as being distinct from happiness. The feeling I most associate with contentment, in fact, is one of stillness. Just being in a state of accepting what’s present. Not with any sense of resignation or defeat, but with a feeling of welcoming what’s already here.
But I’ve been wondering lately if there’s more to it. We don’t exactly live still lives, after all. Is there a way to be dynamically involved in creating our lives, yet also maintain this quality of santosha? Can we find contentment not just in the still moments, but also in the midst of a life that is in a constant process of growth and change—with all the doubt and uncertainty that can come along with it?
One of the most beloved lines from another text, the Bhagavad Gita, seems to apply here: “You only have authority over action, not ever the result. Don’t be motivated by the result, and don’t get attached to inaction.” The suggestion here seems to encourage a commitment to being in action—to growing, changing, learning—and finding contentment in just showing up for that process, whatever the outcome may be.
It’s not an easy task. Finding contentment when I’m in process—lacking certainty or any guaranteed outcome—is one of the most challenging practices I’ve come across. So easy to say, “when I’ve finished this, when I’ve gained this, when I’ve achieved this outcome—I’ll feel content.” But that’s not what santosha is asking of us. It’s saying, “circumstances and outcome aside, contentment is a possibility from the beginning.” In other words, live with contentment, not for it.
As the heat of summer wears on, we hope you find some moments of contentment, in both stillness and in action. The yoga practice is pretty good at bringing us both. We look forward to seeing you on the mat!
Erin H/Indi Yoga