Santosha, Contentment … Stoicism

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My innate personality is NOT to be content, I want to know how things will end up, to focus on the ultimate goal,  “the end game”, “the bigger picture”.  I read somewhere “writers thrive on endings” (not that I’m a “writer” but maybe I think like one), however, as I’ve gotten older I realize so much of the “end game” is out of our control and by focusing on how we want things to be or how we think things should be, or how we think people should be (aka behave ;)), we miss so much of how things ARE and what is happening right NOW, so much of which is beautiful & amazing.

Having kids, getting older, yoga, teachers, workshops, reading, researching … have all taught me you can’t control much in this life, but you CAN control your reactions and perceptions, and you can try to appreciate every day, every moment of the here and now, even if it’s not always pleasant or enjoyable, there is always something to be learned, appreciated, contemplated, experienced, and yes sometimes endured …

As far as I know (although I hope I’m wrong and at least a part of us lives on in some form or another), this is the only life we get, so we should try to enjoy or at least appreciate every day, even when things are hard, to at least be aware and present and therefore …

Santosha 

Santosha is the second niyama (“virtue”) described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It denotes contentment and a lack of desire for what others have. The term is derived from the Sanskrit sam, meaning “completely” or “altogether,” and tosha, meaning “contentment” or “acceptance”, “complete contentment.”

Santosha is closely related to equanimity, in that practicing it allows one to accept whatever circumstances present themselves, including pleasure, pain, success or failure.

It is said that santosha helps the yogi to develop a better relationship with him/herself. They learn to accept and be content with the way they are, rather than making their happiness dependent on achieving certain goals, or changing aspects of themselves.

In yoga, santosha can be exercised through asana practice; by accepting oneself; and by accepting the body’s limitations, rather than striving for more.

Simply put … being happy with what you have and not wanting what you don’t have, accepting how things are and THAT making you happy, not striving for things to be different and THEN you’ll be happy

Making the best of everything.

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I was talking (possibly complaining ;)) to my friend the other day, about being let down by people because they weren’t behaving the way I thought they should and that “I want to believe everyone is doing the best they can, but I actually DON’T believe they are” and my friend said to me “But what if everyone IS doing the best they can?” and I said “but what if they’re not?” she replied “it shouldn’t matter to you, because they are doing what they are doing and whether or not it’s ‘their best’ is none of your business and you just have to accept it”.  She’s right and I can only control my reaction and perception. Accepting how things are instead of wishing for things to be different (wasting my time and energy on how I think things should be).

Other cultures view happiness quite differently than Americans …

I heard on a podcast that the French view happiness differently than Americans.  The reason Americans suffer from more depression is because they (Americans) look at happiness as an achievement, an “end all” whereas the French strive for contentment and look at happiness as a state of being that you can come in and out of, so just because you’re not happy right now doesn’t mean that you won’t be again or that you have failed.

When describing the Swiss the author of “The Geography of Bliss”, Eric Weiner states: “Happy? Content? No!? A word fails me, I need a new word for Swiss happiness, not mere contentment but less than full on joy … “conjoyment” a joyful but calm feeling (whereas when Americans feel joy they often feel manic or panicked that it will end) the Swiss simply feel a calmness”.  Weiner quotes a British academic who states that “Affluence breeds impatience and impatience undermines well-being.  But the Swiss are wealthy AND patient, they know how to linger, no one looks at their watch (their perfectly synchronized Swiss gold watch).  It’s not feeling like you should be elsewhere, with someone else, doing something else, being something else. In Switzerland you can just BE and therefore be happy”.

“As far as I can see, this is a problem with living in the twenty-first century. Many of us have every material thing we need, so the job of marketing is now to tie the economy to our emotions (happiness) to make us feel like we need more to make us happy by making us want things we never needed before. To feel poorly travelled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photo-shopped and filtered.” “How to Stop Time” by Matt Haig

At the same time Santosha was showing up in my life so was the concept of Stoicism, I think the two concepts are very related.

“As for things that could not be changed, they must stoically be endured.”  Elizabeth Gilbert “The Signature of All Things” 

sto·i·cism
the endurance of pain or hardship without a display of feelings and without complaint.

I subscribe to a website called “The Daily Stoic” and recently the topic was about Amor Fati a Latin phrase that may be translated as “love of fate” or “love of one’s fate”. … Moreover, amor fati is characterized by an acceptance of the events or situations that occur in one’s life.

Usually the website quotes the great philosophers of stoicism, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Epictetus … recently they quoted from Billy Jean King … “she would close her memoir with a pretty remarkable series of sentences that capture one of the most important (but most difficult) concepts in Stoicism: Amor Fati

“But more important now, I must think in terms of very specific goals and realities. Of course, I can just say I want to win all three — the singles, doubles, and mixed. Easy to say and easy to want, but so difficult to execute. How can I do it? More than anything else, I must love everything that is part and parcel of the total Wimbledon scene. I must love hitting that little white ball; love every strain of running and bending those tired knees; love every bead of sweat; love every cloud or every ray of sun in the sky; love every moment of tension, …. love feeling and absorbing the tradition of almost one hundred years.  In essence, I have to possess enough passion and love to withstand all the odds. No matter how tough, no matter what kind of outside pressure, no matter how many bad breaks along the way — and with more love and passion than the world has ever witnessed in any performance. A total, giving performance: give more when you think you have nothing left. Through the desire, the inspiration will be present. Love, passion, attitude, ability, intensity — the only way, a street with no curves or cul-de-sacs. I must let my inner self be out front and free. Love always.”
Billy Jean King

From the Daily Stoic … “What’s particularly striking about this passage are King’s observations about the mundane difficulties of the life of a tennis player and the way she was able to capture and appreciate–much the way  Marcus Aurelius could–the ordinary pieces of experience. The beads of sweat…the moments of tension– these are the things we see in a different light when we choose Amor Fati. In Marcus’s time he wrote about stalks of grain bending low, about the flecks of foam on a boar’s mouth, ripe fruit, the chattering of the adoring (and not adoring) crowds, the yapping of small dogs.  When we accept and embrace everything that is around us, we can truly begin to see it. We can see everything, big and small, good and bad, and find beauty in it–find something to love in it.”

As Friedrich Nietzsche describes it:
“My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it… but love it.”

“You can’t cry it away or eat it away or starve it away or walk it away or punch it away or even therapy it away. It’s just there, and you have to survive it. You have to endure it. You have to live through it and love it and move on and be better for it. – Cheryl Strayed author of Wild

“The truth? You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are. That’s the takeaway.” Rachel Hollis “Girl Wash Your Face”

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“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow. I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life. I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.” I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance. I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back. I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision. I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one. I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back. I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn. I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

Although I hope you are mostly content, I also hope you are happy and often 😊, and I do know that no matter how bad it seems, the next day, or next week, or next month, or next year it will most likely be better.  Keep your loved ones close they are your touchstones, during good and bad.  Get outdoors!  Especially on a bad day and I bet a sunrise, a sunset, a flower, a lady bug, the sun, the moon, the stars, a snowflake, even a raindrop,… SOMETHING will bring a smile to your face, or maybe a tear to your eye (and that’s good too) … just look around, open your eyes and your heart. There is SO much awesomeness in this world!

 

Sometimes driving around with teenagers in your car is AWESOME (sometimes not ;)) … but thanks to my daughter my new favorite song … “I Hope You’re Happy” Blue October

There will be days when you’re falling down
There will be days when you’re inside out
There will be days when you fall apart
Someone else will break you heart
They’re never gonna hold you back
I’m always gonna have your back
So try to remember that
I hope you’re happy (or at least content)
I hope you’re good (you don’t always have to be great)
I hope you get what you wish for (or at least your needs are met)
And you’re well understood (this one I won’t budge on, I hope at least one person you love understands you)
And whatever your progress
I know you’ll be fine (“and will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! 98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed” Dr. Suess)
Because I hope you’re happy
Even if you’re not mine
Try to remember that
I hope you’re happy
I hope you’re good
I hope you get what you wish for
And you’re well understood

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