Santosha or contentment is part of yoga’s eightfold path. These eight steps help to guide us to a meaningful and purposeful life. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving during the month of November, this is the perfect time of year to pause and observe Santosha and explore how practicing contentment and gratitude can help make life extremely rich.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra verse 2.42 reads, “From contentment, the highest happiness is attained.” Contentment blossoms, when desire is removed. Yoga teaches us that the moment is complete; we don’t need to look for something else. Contentment is all about being grateful for what we have instead of desiring something else, or something more.
When we spend our lives seeking, always looking for the better experience (bigger house, brighter diamond or newer car model), we are placing requirements on our own happiness that we can never meet. Once we get those possessions that we seek, we usually barely enjoy them before we are looking for that next bigger and better thing.
Yoga Teacher TKV Desikachar’s definition of Santosha is “to accept what happens.” In other words, when it is cold, let it be cold. We experienced one of the coldest and wettest winters on record her in the Chicago area last year, and the talk all winter was on how awful it was. Many shifted into survival mode and stopped enjoying life.
Looking back, there was so much joy to be had. I connected with many of my southern states friends when they called or emailed their sympathy. I was motivated to plan a great spring break vacation, and had several days to spend with my kids when school was cancelled. Our house was warm and cozy all winter, our old cars still started every day, and many mornings we woke to see our neighborhood blanketed in some of the most beautiful snow we had ever seen.
Each morning when I trekked out to my studio to teach yoga, I found my students were more grateful than ever to have a beautiful space to come to, a respite from the cold, and a community to share a practice with. The weather couldn’t ruin the winter, only our attitudes towards the weather could do that.
Gratitude asks us to fall in love with our life as it is, and will keep us centered in joy and abundance. This Thanksgiving, take time to not only count your blessings, but to look for the joy in the perfect moments that will unfold right before you.