Does Competition Lead to Contentment? How to Cultivate Santosha.
What is contentment? The oxford dictionary defines contentment as a state of being satisfied, and also as a state of tranquil happiness.
In Sanskrit, contentment is referred to as Santosha and is one of the key practices required in Yoga and Ayurveda.
So, an important question to ask yourself is, “how would you define contentment? And, are you content?”
Contentment for me is a state of being in acceptance from which comes inner joy, peace and harmony. These are not dependant on any external events or things.
Contentment allows me to just be rather than having to be or become someone else. I am not always content, but the development of contentment is a part of my spiritual practice.
I have had times were I have felt completely content and during these times I felt free from the agony of dissatisfaction.
We each have equal capacity to be content and the seed of contentment is buried within us. We were born to experience joy, happiness and tranquillity.
Somewhere along the way we lost our connection to our inner joy because we started looking at things outside of us for a sense of fulfillment.
From a young age happiness starts to elude us. We become dissatisfied with what we have, always thinking someone else is happier because they have a bigger and better toy.
As a mom I see this with my own kids. They get treated the same but still one of them always looks to the other and wants what the other has.
They develop the syndrome of “I want what he has because it will make me feel better.”
By doing this over and over again our reserve of contentment dries up, leaving us to think that we have to look outside of us for bigger and better things to get replenished.
This same lack of content follows students into a yoga class. I observe students in class comparing their flexibility to that of their peers.
As a result the gratification from their yoga practice is lost to thoughts of competition and comparison with others.
When this happens the practice which is meant to calm the mind and reduce stress actually has the opposite effects.
Now it is causing our heart to race because we want to be better that the other person so that we may have inner satisfaction of knowing I am better than he or she is.
As we look for joy in the external world and from others, we give our power away to really become content with what we have and how we feel. People, places and thing can influence us which they might not of.
As young children our happiness is often influenced by our parents, as we try hard to impress them.
As we grow older our happiness is influenced by our friends, as we show them our things in order to be liked.
As teens and young adults we often look for happiness through earning respect and loyalty from our peers which lead us to perform deeds that aren’t always best for us.
In our adult life we look for happiness in our careers, titles, assets and toys, all of which bring only temporary joy.
If we want to have peace and joy it is important at this time in our life to cultivate contentment.
Santosha (contentment) is a foundational principle in both Yoga and Ayurveda. Without contentment, health, harmony and growth is it not possible.
Therefore the development of Santosha is essential for a successful yoga practice.
“Contentment – Santosha is one of the fixed rules for a spiritual aspirant who is very serious about the higher aspect of yoga and realization. It is impossible for one who is dissatisfied with oneself or with anything else in life to realize the higher consciousness.” – Swami Satayanada Saraswati
This leaves us with a question, how do we free ourselves from dissatisfaction? The answer is to water the seed of contentment within. Take care of this seed and let it flourish with practice, patience and persistence. Here are five ways on how to cultivate contentment.
1. Be mentally and emotionally satisfied with things as they are. When things don’t go your way the easiest thing to do is sulk in the misery and fault finding. Rather than letting situations bring you suffering, choose to accept the circumstances and then take action from this place of acceptance to bring about change in a harmonious, effortless manner.
2. Find Santosha in change. It is evident that the world is transient. We all are born and one day we all will pass. Find the joy in each stage of life from youth to old age. Let go of clinging to the past. Let yourself be at rest in your inner joy, knowing that this too shall pass each time difficulty arises.
3. Find Santosha in others happiness. Be genuinely happy for others success and wellbeing. This will bring a sense of peace within your mind since you are no longer competing or comparing yourselves to them.
4. Serve other without the attachment to being rewarded or acknowledged. do it for the betterment of humanity and for our planet. My teacher always says think of yourself as not being the doer but the instrument through which kind deeds are performed.
5. Be grateful for the gift of life. Be grateful for your experience. Be grateful for this moment.