A house is no home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body. – Margaret Fuller

The sexy in santosha (contentment)

One of the niyamas, or observances, in yoga is santosha (सन्तोष ) or contentment. How do you find contentment? You begin by wanting what you have…

Wanting what you have, rather than always wanting new things is a difficult concept to embrace in our consumer-driven society. We are constantly bombarded with enticing advertisements to want more, want better, want bigger, want flashier, want sexier, etc.

What is sexy about contentment? The minister at my church gave a sermon about the classic virtue of Temperance, this Sunday. Temperance means finding the mean between excess and lack. Moderation and balance are the keys to a temperant life. What struck me was that a life of moderation and balance sounds extremely boring. It isn’t but why can’t we see what is sexy about it?

This has never occurred to me as I teach balance and moderation to my yoga students and clients. In yoga we strive for balance as well. I have been working on this for years.  The balancing postures, like tree pose, are metaphors for life and when we practice these postures, we are allowing balance to come into our lives. We get to experience the feelings that come with and without balance, and we notice the differences in our balance each day and on each leg every time we practice.

Perhaps there is a clue here as to why it has been so difficult for me to achieve balance in my life. There are so many distractions in our daily lives that pull our attention away from the things that are beneficial and those that are harmful to us. For me this comes in the form of perfectionism. I am never content that something is done, because I always find ways to do it better. I have to learn to leave things alone when they are “good enough” and just move on.

When you are always chasing after something new, something more thrilling, you are abandoning yourself. You are running away from home, rather than cultivating the stability and safety that you need to be grounded and happy.

We think that we will find some shortcut or quick fix, or get-rich-quick scheme by tasting the flavor-of-the-month. Instead, we are pulled away from the important things in life. Your house is just a house, your body is just your body.

To find contentment, we need to make our house into a home and regard our body as a temple. In yoga we do this by surrendering our minds to our hearts, and honoring the wisdom of our bodies. The thoughts and feelings that we observe each moment–the process we practice on the yoga mat–are our guides back to our source.

When we slow down–breath, relax, feel–we can take in our surroundings. What is in your environment? Do the things in your home and the people in your life provide you with inspiration? What simple things can you add or subtract in your life to bring balance? How can the things that surround you nourish and inspire. What around you, in your daily life, in your home, office contains “food and fire” for your soul? You can remove distractions and you can add reminders for yourself of what “coming home to yourself” means. These will help you see clearly and remain focused.

If we release our attachments to the rat race and to the keeping-up-with-the-Jones’ and to the next Hottest, we can come home to ourselves.  When we create safe and harmonious surroundings in our home and in our hearts, we can be content. Want what you have.

What is so sexy about that? We all know that if we overindulge in food, or alcohol, or drugs, or tobacco, or keep late hours, we are not going to look sexy, or perform well sexually. If that doesn’t convince you…

Let’s hear it for Temperance!