Santosha. I love the way this word sounds and feels as it rolls off my tongue. It could be an exotic food, a tropical getaway, or a really excellent cocktail (one that is pink with an umbrella), but it is none of those things. Santosha is part of the eight limbs of yoga and is one of the niyamas. The niyamas take a deep dive into our attitudes about life and how we feel about ourselves as outlined by Patanjali.
As I was studying The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the concept of santosha really resonated with me. It was the one I really wanted to follow, my favorite niyama, and I wanted to be its poster child.
From the translation of the yoga sutras by Sri Swami Satchidananda, the definition of santosha is being content with what you have and where you are at instead of wishing for things you don’t have or daydreaming of the future. It is living in the present and feeling true satisfaction. And here’s the kicker: When you have this kind of contentment, supreme joy is attained.
You have to be real careful with your interpretation of contentment, though. For some people, contentment is the way they feel after eating a four-course gourmet meal with wine perfectly paired to each course or after some awesome sex, chocolate—you get the idea. Those types of contentment fall more along the lines of satisfaction. Real honest-to-goodness contentment means just to be as we are without going to food, sex, chocolate, or other “things” for our happiness.
Here are a few ways to practice santosha in your daily life.
- If something comes, let it come. If not, it doesn’t matter.
- Practice remaining calm in success and failure.
- Cut back on energy wasted in thoughts of liking or disliking what is.
- Practice living mindfully.
- Ask yourself if you really need that new [fill in the blank] to be content. Seriously, do you really need more “stuff” in your life?
This next little exercise is the hardest one of all for me, but if I could do this each and every day, life would be so much sweeter.
- Live in the present moment without regretting the past or anticipating the future.
The thing about santosha is that it is a key element in living a spiritual life. If you cannot be happy with yourself and where you are in life, you are going to have a helluva long road ahead on your spiritual journey. Dissatisfaction with life has many horrible symptoms, such as psychic infirmity, complexes, and high blood pressure. I’d rather strive for the symptoms of contentment in life: happiness, peace, and the ultimate…supreme joy.
I’d like to share a little santsosha mantra that I learned in my yoga-teacher training.
I am content.
I am grateful for what I have and for what I do not have.
I learn from the joys and disappointments life brings me.
I honor the good in myself and others.
I refrain from criticism and fault finding.
I accept life just the way it is.
I enjoy life!
So, here’s a toast, a santosha toast, to all my fellow yogis: May you find contentment in your life, stop beating yourself up over the past, let go of fretting about the future, cease the coveting of things you don’t have, be at peace with your life as it is right now, fully present with a heart full of love, and grateful for all you have. Cheers!
Are you a poster child for santosha? Got a great example of santosha in your life? Would love to hear from other members of the santosha fan club!