We are all seeking to invite more joy and peace into our lives every day. This can seem like a challenge when life is full of ups and downs, but every obstacle in life presents an opportunity to practice being at peace with things just as they are. In yoga, we call this samtosha, which translates into contentment. When we can ground ourselves in faith and love and accept everything as it is, the sting of life’s worries loses its effect and we can step into a constant state of peace. I believe there are three essential keys to attaining the peace and joy that accompany contentment. They are (1) recognizing our blessings, (2) focusing our attention on the unchanging spiritual realm, and (3) having faith in the Divine.
Recognizing Our Blessing
We cultivate contentment by being grateful for what each and every day has to offer. That is, contentment begins with being thankful for all of our talents, gifts, and possessions without making comparisons or feeling we need anything extra to make us happy. We are already whole, perfect and complete; all that may be missing is our realization of this truth.
A great way to help ourselves realize this truth is to carry a gratitude token. The token can be in the form of a rock, keychain, bracelet or any item with special significance. We can incorporate this token into our practice by carrying it on a daily basis and whenever we come across it, allowing that item to be a reminder to think of three blessings in our lives. This practice allows us to recognize the blessings in our lives throughout the day. Ultimately, the need for the token dissolves and we find ourselves naturally shifting our mind to gratitude throughout the day.
Another great gratitude practice is to keep a journal and write down 5 new things that we can be grateful for each day. On the “bad” days, we can review the many blessings of our lives and then allow ourselves to shift our focus to the good and add to the list of blessings, even in the midst of our struggle. The purpose of thinking of 5 new things every day is to to go beyond the usual realm of gratitude and bring awareness to the small blessings and the blessings in disguise. For example, we may start out by being grateful for our education and after a while, find gratitude for the lessons learned in a past romantic relationship. There are blessings all around us, we just have to take the time to look. In doing so, we give ourselves the gift of peace and contentment.
Focusing Attention on the Unchanging Spiritual Realm
Releasing ourselves from the bondage of the material world and focusing on spiritual improvement can also bring peace and contentment no matter what is happening. When we know that we are loved by God and nurtured by family, friends, and community, we can simply be ourselves and be satisfied with whatever may come. Therefore, its important to make time for prayer, meditation and/or reading inspirational texts daily. Even if we don’t feel like there is enough time to pray or meditate every day in the morning and every night before bed, we can simply say a grace before eating. If that doesn’t work, we can get creative. For example,praying or listening to an enlightened message on the way to work, using one 15-minute break at work to meditate or pray, or replacing ½ hour of television with spiritual time can all have a huge impact. Regardless of what we do or when we do it, investing time in shifting attention from this temporary world of form to the permanent realm of the soul is guaranteed to give a return on investment in the form of peace and contentment.
The true aim of yoga is to create a space to connect with something greater than ourselves (God, the Universe, our higher wisdom, Allah, Buddha, Krishna, our ancestors, etc.). Yoga can be cultivate more faith and contentment on and off the mat by incorporating physical asanas (poses), breathing techniques, and meditative prayer into the practice. We start the practice off with a regular asana practice with a mix of poses (some easy, some hard). As we practice the poses, we can focus on being content with our body and our ability--focus on the strength, flexibility and balance we exhibit, rather than how we wish the pose looked or felt. We finish the practice with shoulder stand or headstand and then lying in savasana (final relaxation pose) for about 3 minutes. While in savasana, we take some time to reflect on 3 blessings in our lives and then relax in gratitude. After savasana, we find a comfortable seated position with our spine tall and shoulders relaxed. We practice alternate nostril breathing for about 10 times on each side. Then, we sit and breathe comfortably with the eyes closed, spine straight, and attention focused on the area between the eyebrows. Then we can begin a simple meditation prayer--reciting an affirmation, a bible verse or an inspiring quote from your favorite author. I like to use a quote from Ernest Holmes, the founder of Science of Mind, that I was introduced to at the Center for Spiritual Living Dallas: "There’s only one Life. This Life is God’s Life. This Life is Perfect. This Life is my life, NOW." We say this phrase to ourselves silently and repeatedly. Each time, allow the words to remind us that God is all around us and everything is working in divine order.
Cultivating faith in the Divine allows a greater experience of contentment. Life has many "highs" and "lows" but it is our faith that allows us to weather the storm in peace. We all know that flowers bloom in the spring and leaves descend in the fall. In fact, everyone welcomes the changes of the seasons because we know it is a natural part of life and we have faith that spring will follow winter and fall will follow summer. (At least I know that’s what gets me through the hot summers and cold winters of Texas and allows me to enjoy those seasons too because they're temporary.)
When there are changes in the economy, however, people strongly resist the change and become scared, depressed and insecure. This is because we have misplaced faith in the economy as the source of our good. The true source of our good is God. When we firmly believe that God will provide, we are unshaken by the economy because we know that the ups and downs of the economy do not affect our good.
Further, when we have faith and know that we are always with God and God loves us as we are, we have less of a tendency to allow our jobs and sources of income to define our value in the world. When we recognize that we are all individual expressions of God, losing a job doesn't cause us to have an identity crisis. When we identify ourselves as an expression of God, neither a change in our job nor a change in the economy can cause us to question who we are. When we have faith in the Divine, all changes are like changes in seasons, they have no effect on our stability or our identity, they are simply facts of life.
Once established in gratitude and the spiritual realm, faith automatically begin to increase. As faith increases, so does contentment. The true key to joy, peace and contentment is recognizing that God is all there is, God is the source of our good, and God is greater than anything this material world can throw at us. Peace be with you!
Ronda Jyoti Litwin, RYT
- The Yamas & Niyamas: Exploring Yoga's Ethical Practice: If you want to find out more about the yogic definition of samtosha (contentment) and how that concept fits into yogic philosophy, this is a great book. It introduces you to the first two steps on the 8-limbed path to yoga, the yamas (restraints) and niyamas (observances). Samtosha is one of the niyamas
- The Secret (Extended Edition): This movie is a great way to begin to anchor yourself in God as your source. It also discusses beautiful gratitude practices.
- The Center for Spiritual Living: This is a wonderful place to anchor yourself in the spiritual realm, regardless of your spiritual or religious background. You will learn all kinds of tools to help you grow into contentment. The link is to The Center for Spiritual Living Dallas but if you live elsewhere there are other Centers for Spiritual Living, Religious Science, Science of Mind and Unity Churches throughout the world.
- Contentment: A Way to True Happiness: Society may tell us to keep looking for the next purchase, person, job or feeling to fill the void, but, as the authors point out, "contentment comes from the inside." In addition to the examples Johnson and Ruhl draw from Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Taoist and other traditions, they present an extended discussion of the themes of spiritual blindness and insight into King Lear to illustrate the inward and outward examination necessary for growth. Their contemplative strategies for achieving happiness take into account the pace and complexity of modern life, and are not merely a call to simplify and reduce.