Santosha (contentment) and finding happiness

santosha blog post

One of my first yoga teachers said to me that I would never be completely content. I thought she was right, but I've come to realise that we all have the ability to be content and that this is the heart of true happiness. Santosha, the sanskrit word for contentment, is an important part of yoga practice. Being present, mindful and OK with what we have right now allows us to enjoy this moment. But it can be hard to cultivate or to maintain. 

I draw a lot of my lessons in life from surfing, sometimes it's a cliche but it works for me! I used to sit in the line up and look down the beach, and the waves always seemed to be breaking better there. However when I got out, walked down the beach and paddled back out, surprise surprise, the waves were exactly the same. Yoga has taught me a similar lesson. Whilst I don't see the need to practice on a yoga mat, I do understand the symbolism of it. When we practice yoga we are not looking at what anyone else is doing, we are looking inside ourselves, a space definted by our mat. When we do look around at other people on their mats, notice someone elses external pose and compare ourselves to that we loose our focus. This is not yoga.

So, how does this relate to our lives and our happiness? Over the years I have longed for other things, mainly sandier beaches, bluer sea and warmer sun! I have found it difficult to settle because there is always somewhere else to be and something else to do. My lack of contentment has taken me on many adventures and I would never change this. It has given me lots of memories, but it hasn't always made me completely happy.

Life goes in phases - there is the time to fly the nest and gather experiences and there is the time to settle and make a new nest. As I reflect on the last 6 months I feel happy that I have the things that are truly important to me, love and family. And as I prepare for my new family I know that my life isn't perfect and it certainly isn't the life I had imagined a few years ago. I dreamed of travelling with my baby on my back, bringing it up in different countries, settling somewhere hot and sunny and definitely surfing more than once a year! But I had to make a decision, what did I want more in my life - all of that, or love and family. My husband and I can't travel right now because we have a responsibility to be here for my stepson. My life doesn't 'look' the way I imagined it would, but it 'feels' even better than I could have imagined. 

In a world where we are constantly seeing visual representations and portrayals of other peoples lives in a way that they (or the marketing companies) want us to see it, it can be hard to ascertain how any of it feels to those people. Usually we assume they must be happy because their lives look so perfect, and often we think that we, too, would have that happiness if we had all the things those people have. However, once our basic needs are met our happiness doesn't change that much regardless of how much more or less stuff we have, and we can't have it all! Working out what are the most important things to us right now and forgetting about all the other things we could have helps us to find contentment and ultimately happiness. And my guess is, usually the most important things to us aren't 'things' at all.