As we explore the yogic precepts for living, the second Niyama (personal ethics) is Santosha: contentment.
“By contentment, the highest happiness is attained.” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II.42
Contentment means being as we are without seeking happiness from external sources. The happiness we get from acquiring possessions is only temporary. We need to continually find new possessions to sustain this sort of happiness. There is no end to it. But true contentment leads to total happiness and bliss.
Santosha is the experience of unconditional happiness, a state that allows us to find contentment in any situation. “If we depend on objects and activities for our happiness, like chocolate, shopping, napping, or even sticking to the poses we love most, we will constantly be searching outside of ourselves,” says Yoga Master Cindy Lee. Contentment, or unconditional happiness, is independence from external conditions.
Contentment is learning to embrace what is right in front of you and to stop yearning for what is missing. When we recognize and accept that life is an ongoing process of learning, growing, and evolving, we are more inclined towards self-acceptance. This is santosha: to accept what happens. Once the mind is content, it is able to concentrate, and Samadhi (enlightenment) is attained.
Meditation Practice on Santosha:
Come into a comfortable seated posture, on the floor or in a chair. Close your eyes and allow yourself to relax by taking 10 slow, deep breaths. When you feel relaxed and comfortable, put your attention on your heart and for the next few minutes, think of all the things in your life that you could be grateful for. Just sit there quietly. As you think of the things you are grateful for, experience the warmth that gratitude brings into your heart. There is so much to be grateful for and the feeling of gratitude brings even deeper feelings of love, compassion, and understanding into your heart. Sit quietly with these feelings for a few minutes, and when you’re ready, slowly open your eyes.
“Whatever happiness there may be in enjoyment in this world, and whatever greater happiness there may be in the celestial world, they do not amount to one sixteenth of the happiness attained from the cessation of desire.” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Edwin Bryant