Contentment, still relevant

It Felt Love

(by Hafiz)


Did the rose

Ever open its heart And give to this world

All its

Beauty? It felt the encouragement of light

Against its

Being, Otherwise,

We all remain Too Frightened.

Sprouts     Spring has come, as it does every year, but I never grow tired of the awakening that happens when the days get longer.  My garden blooms as hibernation comes to an end.  It feels a bit easier to breathe and certainly contentment is less difficult to practice.

     I've thought a lot about Santosha over the past 9 months.  The turmoil of moving, a remodel, moving again and finishing graduate school made me realize how hard contentment really is.  I wrote about it last October, about how easy it is to think we're good at being content when we think within the context of ease.  Once effort is required, santosha usually becomes such a challenge that I brush it aside and focus on other ethical teachings of yoga.

     Spring seems like a good time to strengthen this particular niyama (internal practice).  It's a hopeful time and I can easily find moments in each day that feel good and contentment is nearly effortless.  But there's usually enough turmoil in this season to provide brief tests, when contentment is less a feeling and more a choice.  Like those days of rain and wind we get after a teaser of sun and warmth.

     Meditation is as good a way as any I've tried to encourage growth in this area.  It's easy to get carried away with the business of spring, to become over-stimulated with light and activity.  A few minutes of quiet, alone, goes a long way.  And when I say a few, I literally mean 3-5 minutes.  If you think you can't "do meditation,"  try it for a week.  Start or end your day in silence, just briefly, and see what happens.  Set the timer on your phone for 3 minutes, sit and breathe and observe your mind.  If that feels easy, add another minute.  If it's a challenge, be willing to stick with 3 minutes, even if it feels silly and a bit wimpy (it's not).  As someone wise whom I can't recall wrote, "solitude is where you gather yourself."  It's counter-intuitive in our hyper-connected world.  Silence can be unsettling, but spend enough time there and you just might build santosha capacity for life's effort-ful moments.

kicking off my 2013 practice

i had every intention of using my recent time on the beach in california for asana practice.  i rolled up my travel mat, stuffed it in the overhead bin, propped it up in the corner of my room for 3 days, then toted it (still rolled-up) back to the airport and another overhead bin for the flight back home.  as it turned out, my inaugural 2013 practice was a return to a habit i acquired in late 2011 and had fallen away from this past fall -- friday evening hatha flow with Andreas at yogalife queen anne. Dove

something nudged me to the studio tonight, rather than practicing on my own.  i'm glad i listened.  it felt good to build up some heat on a dark, january night.  i needed to stretch my aching calf muscles from morning runs on the sand.  most importantly, i got to be part of a community, to join my voice with others in a song for peace.  i'd forgotten how much i appreciate the simplicity of his class -- a steady focus on breath and body with the occasional, yet perfectly intentioned reminder of something more.  as if he's casually tossing out a comment about alignment, Andreas will speak to a sutra or remind us that being an advanced yogi is about being able to find ease, to back off even, in a physically challenging pose.  tonight he offered one word to guide our focus for the new year in place of resolutions - santosha.  one of the niyamas (ethics) in yoga, santosha means contentment.  what a lovely reminder as i begin 2013.  are there things i want, dreams i chase, regrets from the past?  absolutely.  but i can set those aside and dwell on my contentment.  i have a good and full life and if most of it stayed just about as it is today for the rest of my days, i would be happy.  i am happy.  santosha.