First of all, what is Santosha?
Santosha means being entirely content in the present moment. It is about experiencing an optimistic happiness from within. Essentially, Santosha is being at peace without craving material things or looking outside of yourself for enjoyment. It’s about finding your life and your relationships satisfying, without the frills (vacations, possessions, money, etc.). By all means, you can and should enjoy the good “stuff” along the way, but know that the frills are merely excess, and not necessary for happiness. Santosha is about simple gratitude for what you have, who you are, and where you are in life. It’s about waking up each day with the understanding that you have been given a meaningful gift – the absolute gift of a whole day to practice, learn, love unconditionally, help, socialize, and create fulfillment for yourself. Santosha is about being in an ever-mindful place of grateful serenity – becoming aware in the moment while living the life of a truth seeker. It’s about living authentically.
Do you want to find it? There are several ways you can:
- Practice gratitude. Did you get up way too early for a meeting at work you’re dreading? Be grateful you woke up, and you have a job. Have you been waiting too long for your table at a restaurant? Be grateful you have the means to eat your dinner out. Stuck in traffic? You have a car. Practicing gratitude is about tweaking your perception inside moments that feel foul. If you are experiencing that rush of adverse emotions that comes along during aggravating situations, try to halt your thought process, slow down, and let them go. The examples given are indeed “first world” problems, of course, but wouldn’t you agree that privileged people need to stop whining and start practicing a bit of gratitude? It is very important, when seeking Santosha, to “count your blessings” in the moment by remembering what you have, where you are in life, and who you are. This can change the tone and mood of the moment you are experiencing.
- Practice compassion. Know that when you are dealing with a negative person, it is about what is going on with him or her, it is not about you. What can you do to diffuse the bad feelings and help? Sometimes simply being kind to someone, despite his or her behavior toward you can soften aggression. Compassion is about finding ways to help, whether it’s through honest charity or simple kindness in the face of adversity.
- Practice patience. Breathe through turmoil. Count to ten before speaking – before reacting. To avoid a “knee-jerk” response, think of what the moment is trying to teach you about yourself and your life. Close your eyes, breathe, and whisper, “this too shall pass and all will be fine”. This mantra works wonders in moments when patience is needed.
But, I hate my life right now – How do I get past that?
Jealous, resentful, angry? Lonely, over-weight, recovering? Depressed, grieving, ashamed?
But my life is a veritable “shit storm,” right now, how can I possibly find Santosha? Well, the first thing you can do, during times of adversity, is accept what is happening in your life. Take things exactly as they are, and move on from there. The key word is move. Try not to sit back, judge, or dwell on what you are experiencing. It is important to feel and work through the emotions that the many difficulties in life bring, but then you must move forward, away from the darkness that these difficulties harbor. Negative feelings or life situations can and will arise, and because you are human, sometimes they will seem relentless. You will be disappointed. You will feel lonely. You will experience grief. Grief is difficult because it feels like there is no way out. If, for example, you are grieving the loss of a loved one, you can still seek Santosha during your time of sadness: you can practice gratefulness by taking moments during the day to remember the person, focusing solely on the person’s engaging qualities and your happy memories. Thinking about the person for whom you are grieving should make you smile. You are grieving because somehow, in some way, that person was part of your life. If you had the pleasure of knowing that person ~ remember the pleasure of that person! You can practice compassion by showing kindness toward those grieving with you, and for yourself. Let it be. Allow the feeling of loss and let it be what it is. You can practice patience by giving yourself plenty of time to grieve. Emotional suffering, such as grief and sadness are real, but you can find Santosha (peace) while you work through it.
Santosha, in most cases, is the direct result of working to change your negative feelings, behaviors, and unhappy life situations, and doing the what is required, (moving) however difficult that may be. You can’t wallow in anguish or despair and expect personal growth, or to somehow magically achieve contentment. That is not how it works. Action, not hope, is what is required time and time again. It is what makes the difference. It is about taking seriously the knowledge you have deep within your heart. You know that you can and should be “doing more” or “doing something” to improve your situation, your attitude, or your feelings. Do you need counseling? Do you need medication? Do you need make new friends? What do you need to do in order to change your circumstances or yourself? Do what will help you, don’t wait. People wait and wait to seek help and what happens is nothing. Nothing becomes too much wasted time – years and years of it in many cases. How many times have you heard someone say, “I wish I hadn’t waited so long – I wasted so much time!” I have certainly said that, on more than one occasion. Finding Santosha is about engaging in the aforementioned practices during unfavorable times, and making steady progress by learning from mistakes and working toward change. We are born with gifts that we either squander or learn to hone. Hone your gifts, change your perceptions, and you will find Santosha. Tranquility comes from shedding the bad, in order to allow the good. It’s a matter of cultivating gratitude, compassion, and patience in and outside of yourself, even when things aren’t going your way.
When you find Santosha, you will find freedom
Finding Santosha will help you move through life (and the many situations that life throws your way) with grace and stability. If you have found contentment within yourself, you simply will not covet, betray, lie, steal, kill, cheat, hoard, resent, or do anything that is in any way self-harming, or harmful to others. They will not be part of your program. You may very well feel lonely or misunderstood from time to time. You will feel anger. Such is life. But what you will discover, as you venture closer to Santosha, is that what you want and what you need are very two different things. It happens to the best of us. These human feelings will come up – but, by mindfully seeking Santosha through engagement in the three practices mentioned, you will be able to let them go quickly. They will not cling to you or drag you down. When you discover Santosha, you uncover your own freedom. It’s the freedom that comes from being happily unbound to material things or negativity. It is the freedom that comes from knowing you absolutely can not control much of what life “throws” your way – but what you can control is your ability to practice gratitude, compassion, and patience at any given moment. What you can do is deflect negativity like the truth seeking warrior you are. And, believe it or not, you can certainly be at peace in a tranquil state of contentment, and still have goals for yourself. This freedom, the freedom that comes from expelling attachment to material things and looking within yourself for your own happiness will help you continue to grow and hone the gifts you were born to use.