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Ashtanga is an ancient discipline going back thousands of years, and its guidelines are still relevant in today’s fast-paced world. In Ashtanga Yoga there are the 8 limbs or aspects of yoga, which can help any individual along the path towards liberation.
The subject of this article is based upon the second limb of yoga: self-observation, also known as Niyamas. Niyamas relate to our awareness of ourselves, they teach spiritual practices that help individuals achieve a balanced inward environment. These teachings provide us with guidelines on how to live life full of meaning and purpose.
Within the Niyamas there are different categories, such as purification, cleanliness, self-study, and devotion. The second of the Niyamas is called Santosha, which in Sanskrit means contentment. Santosha is a very important part of the 8 limbs to consider in everyday life.
Often there is confusion between the subtle differences of contentment and satisfaction. Understanding the difference is key to leading a positive and peaceful life by putting it into mindful practice.
How are you feeling right at this very moment? Are you currently experiencing contentment or satisfaction? This question can be applied to many aspects of our lives. Right from our current state of mind to our careers, relationships, and life paths. When we say contentment involves happiness, most of us will think, “Ah yes! I am very content.” But are we really sure?
The meaning of satisfaction
Satisfaction is defined as a want or a need being achieved. You may have just eaten a delicious hearty meal that has dulled the hungry ache in your rumbling belly. You have now ‘satisfied’ that feeling. It can also be interpreted as a demand, something often linked with a condition: “I’ll be happy as soon as I get that promotion/car/dress etc.”
When you achieve those ‘wants’, that false ‘need’ is satisfied. But are you truly happy? How long will that happiness last for? Or is it only momentary? Another example can be when you finally purchased that pair of outrageously priced shoes that have popped into your head whenever your mind had been given rein to wander. Once you have bought those shoes, you've satisfied that desire. Now what?
We can get lost between trying to fulfill these desires and attaining the highest form of happiness, and what do most people want? To be happy. However, happiness is not something that can be fulfilled; it is a state of mind. Alas, satisfaction is only a fleeting feeling. Many people desperately chase after the fulfillment of their 'wants' and 'desires' but never quite reach the height of pure happiness that we all so intensely crave.
The highest form of happiness is contentment.
Gratitude and contentment go hand-in-hand
Contentment is being grateful for what you have in the present, and remaining patient for what will come in the future. There is no need to strive for instantaneous perfection. Show yourself gratitude, and contentment will gladly follow. In our daily lives we can put this into practice by reminding ourselves to be thankful, and keeping in mind what you have in this present moment is plenty.
Think back to a time where all that you currently have was a distant dream. Additionally, there is no need to compare your present state of being to anyone else's, we are all on our own personal journey through this crazy episode called life. Theodore Roosevelt gave a beautiful quote to put this into perspective – “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
This, as with all aspects of yoga, needs to be practiced regularly. Keep exercising gratitude or just create it whenever you can. Through the powerful practice of being thankful we can tap into continued and pure happiness. We can truly live in contentment. Try to go beyond just being satisfied. Satisfaction can easily seem like happiness attained, chasing after your desires can feel like you are reaching out to something higher than yourself.
Take a moment to really understand that desire: “Why do I want this? Do I need this, and will it truly make me happy?" Practice gratitude with even the smallest things. Be grateful for bird’s song, a cup of hot tea on a cold day, or for the feeling of the breath coming in and out of the body that gives you life.
Remember how far you have come, what you had now was once a distant dream. Real happiness is available to everyone and anyone at any time. Regularly remind yourself of what you have to be grateful for, and genuine happiness will become your companion. Continue consistently appreciating what you've got and feel contentment flood into your being, and it'll be there to stay.
Give it a try and watch your world expand.
“Do your practice and all is coming” - Sri.K.Pattahbi Jois, creator of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga