Yoga Sutra 2.42 – “The result of practicing contentment is total happiness.”
There are countless books, philosophies, and practices for acquiring happiness in the world.
Happiness is all most parents want for their children.
Most of us make major life changes in the name of happiness — careers, locations, life partners, etc.
Many of us have also experienced a culture other then our own in which people seem so happy with so little. This often makes us scratch our heads and rethink our values.
Happiness is that elusive state we are all chasing.
So what does yoga have to say about it?
Yoga on happiness
Yoga philosophy doesn’t spend much time on the concept of happiness.
Yogis prefer exploring bliss and joy, which are markedly different experiences – more intense – then the pursuit of happiness.
Instead of happiness, yogis have contentment.
Santosha, or contentment, is one of the Niyamas in Patanjali’s 8-limbed path. Contentment is about being okay with what you have. It’s about not complaining. It’s about not wanting what you don’t have.
Contentment, on its surface, seems boring and dull. What’s the fun in not wanting something more? Where does the motivation for growth come from? How do we set goals and achieve them if we’re not looking out into the future at what is possible?
Contentment is not about sitting back and not trying or working hard. Practicing this principle in your life doesn’t mean you can’t be ambitious or driven. In fact this principle empowers you to achieve great things by reminding you that you don’t need to wait to be great. You can be great right now with what you have.
Qualities of contentment
For more insight on the quality of contentment, consider the Sanskrit word sukha that appears in Yoga Sutra 2.42 and several others throughout Patanjali’s work.
Sanskrit is admittedly a very hard language to translate into English as one Sanskrit word often has many English translations. One common translation of sukha is “easy.” You may have heard of the asana form Sukhasana or Easy Pose, which is a simple cross-legged seated position.
Sukha also means “having a good axle-hole,” “running swiftly or easily (as it applies to chariots),” “pleasant,” “agreeable,” “gentle,” “comfortable,” “prosperous,” “virtuous.”
Happiness in the form of contentment is about finding ease. When you are worried about not having enough or not being enough, it’s hard to feel at ease. But when you are content with where you are and what you have, then ease, or contentment, becomes much more attainable.
Practicing contentment in daily life
Embracing contentment means we must be resourceful and creative. We may not always have everything we feel we need, but if we act based on what we do have and trust that we are enough we will be okay. If we release our expectations about what we SHOULD have or receive in return for our work, then, the Sutras say, we will get everything we want.
Embedded in contentment lies deep trust and confidence in the way of the world. Admittedly this is sometimes hard to muster. That is why we have gratitude practices to help remind us of the power of the simple things in life. Scientific research has proven that practicing gratitude can reduce the symptoms of illness, make us more optimistic and happier, help us create stronger relationships, and increase our generosity toward others.
To start practicing more gratitude in your life, take a moment to think about something you are grateful for. Start a gratitude journal. Take time each day to notice and appreciate the simple things. Write a thank you note to someone just because. The next time you catch yourself complaining, reverse course and instead express appreciation for what you do have and how that makes your life easier. These simple daily interventions will put you on the path toward contentment and a happier life in no time!
Start living life inspired today!
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The Inspired Life Checklist draws from core concepts in the Yoga Sutras and helps you identify where to focus your energy so that you can start living your most inspired life right now!