Contentment

Posted on 01/01/11

Contentment

 

This blog is dedicated to my Guru VishvaJi – just being near to him teaches so much about contentment.

 

We’re taught from ‘the beginning’ that there is something more, something better. We live our lives in search of something else, something other than who and what we already are. Our constant drive for more takes us away from something that is rooted in every one of us – contentment.

 

The inspiration from ancient yogic texts proves to be timeless. In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (200 CE), it is stated “as the result of contentment, one gains supreme happiness”. Yes please.

 

Within yoga poses, it is common for us to push ourselves, desiring further, stronger, better. All of these happen in the mind. The body doesn’t think, it feels. When we resist or fight, we become less flexible, both physically and mentally. In our exploration of ‘contentment’ last week in yoga sessions, our attitudes towards our physical yoga practice soon made apparent our attitudes ‘off the mat’.

 

In an attempt to move away from ‘more’ and ‘better’ or just ‘different’, we draw towards a state of accepting things as they are; a present-moment awareness. Contentment is resting. Resting in how it is. And often how it is, is beautiful. In ‘how it is’ there are colours and shades and nuances. We can experience sensations and choices. Yoga encourages us to move from thoughts and in to experience and sensations.

 

This isn’t about melancholic acceptance, or reluctance to move forward. It’s seeing things as they are. When we can see how things really are, in the present moment, we have the power to act.

 

The power comes in recognising what we can and can’t change. When we are content we feel more positive. When we are positive we’re more likely to see the possibilities, the potential. It opens up the now. As we haven’t been fighting, we can change things with a positive attitude, knowing that we are making clear decisions from a grounded place, not a place of resistance, confusion or denial.

 

Contentment goes hand in hand with gratitude. The recognition of what we already have. Shifting our perspective is key to gratitue, as one of my lovely students pointed out “it takes removing yourself from yourself almost to see, to look at it from another perspective . . . which always takes me back to cup half full or half empty. Reflection always equals half full because reflection usually leads to perspective no? And perspective then leads to a sense of acceptance and understanding of where you are at, and once we have this then we can feel that contentment.”

 

We don’t have to be happy to be content. Contentment can even be found in sadness. It’s often our reactions to how we feel that cause us the suffering – not the actual feelings themselves. Denying sadness, rejecting it, or fighting it can cause more tension and hurt than the sadness itself. I think of this now as contentment within sadness.

 

It goes beyond like and dislike too. A little thumb up says I approve of something. Then I can change my mind if I stop liking it. What a relief to not feel the need to decide if I do, or don’t like something. It just is as it is. It’s stupendously freeing not to enter realms of like and dislike. Don’t confuse it with not being involved – this is the most ‘involved’ way of living. When not wrapped up in the workings of attachment and aversion we open ourselves up to life.

 

We can cultivate contentment, just as we can cultivate any attitude in life. For me, contentment is about softening, both physically and mentally. Putting in less effort. It’s not about trying hard, which seems to be my default mode. Contentment makes me relax the multitude of mini-tensions that I hold physically and mentally. Maybe you don’t have to make things better. Maybe there is no better. Maybe this is it.

 

You are not reliant on anything outside of yourself to be content. There is no past or future with contentment. Everything is temporary. This is the perfect moment.

 

PS this blog has taken me the longest to write, as it’s taken me ages to be content with the content. Sigh. Of course, please feel free to add your thumb up of 'like' to this post.

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