Contentment and Santosha
What is Contentment?
The Sanskrit word, Santosha, is often translated into English as contentment. It’s close but there is a difference.
The difference comes from our conditioning and understanding of what the word contentment means. It’s defined in one dictionary as a state of happiness and satisfaction.
However, what brings us happiness and satisfaction can differ greatly when we talk about the meaning and difference between Contentment and Santosha.
In one dictionary I looked at, the example given for contentment was: “he found contentment in living a simple life in the country.”
Contentment brings up images, sensations and feelings that everything is working out perfectly. You are happy. Things are good. And you feel satisfied. Content.
Santosha also includes this kind of contentment, but it goes into a much broader, perhaps deeper, and equanimous state of being.
Because Santosha doesn’t depend on any outer circumstances to feel happiness and satisfaction.
And this is the subtle, or not so subtle, difference between the meaning of these two words.
What if you didn’t live a simple life in the country, for example. Is it still possible to experience Santosha?
YES. YES. AND YES.
Santosha comes with a recognition that you don’t need ANY outer influence, situation, circumstance to be in a state of Santosha.
Your very nature is Santosha.
It’s the mind that creates the waves of disturbances. The mind that lives in duality. When there is reliance on an outer situation for our happiness and satisfaction the opposite will also appear.
If there is dependence on outer circumstances to feel content you will also experience the opposite - discontent, dissatisfaction, unhappiness.
And we go back and forth and this can be described as suffering.
So how do we come to live in Santosha?
How can we NOT rely so much on the outer situations, events, circumstances to feel deep peace, satisfaction, and happiness that we long for, whether we recognize this longing or not.
- Remember that your mind, your thoughts, were never meant to be your guidance system.
- Find YOUR way to move out of the mental activity of thinking into a more expansive sensory experience through the body.
- Practice being ok with what arises moment to moment even if it’s mildly uncomfortable. [That being said, of course if what arises feels extremely uncomfortable and it's difficult for you to be with them as they pass through, you may need to find a professional who works in this area to help you through.]
Let’s start with three above to start to connect with that constant present aliveness and joy that is your true nature. And it's always there.
It means recognising the mind is a filter and it veils our true nature.
Your mind is a wonderful tool when it is used in service to a higher purpose such as in service to your inner guidance, your heart, your inner authority, your intuition.
When you catch yourself trying to think your way through, stop and switch to using your body's inner authority in the way that aligns to your soul. (I use Human Design to understand my inner authority and how to use it. You can contact me about this if you want to know more)
Some of the ways we can move out of the mental activity of thinking
- Conscious breathing
- Movement - walks in nature, dance, yoga [as examples]
- Meditation where you witness your thinking, your body sensations, your feelings without reacting to them. Without a need to change them. Let them come and go.
Being with ‘what is’ may be the most challenging but it relates back to number 2 and using any of those tools to help you watch, witness, perceive without the need to figure it out or change it in the moment. Let things come and go as you witness what is happening.
One of the ways to help you move out of the left brain analytical mind is to draw. Draw anything. You don’t have to be an artist. It’s more about drawing what you see in front of you, rather than what you think you are seeing. You focus on the shapes, lines, colors which helps you focus on “what is” without applying a label, a description, a category.
The way of Santosha
I’ll leave you with this marvelous old Taoist story about the farmer. You may have heard this one. It’s all about being centered in Santosha and not letting outer circumstances alter your inner peace, your inner natural state of joy. Being with what is happening without preference.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for what they called his “misfortune.”
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer