Practicing Contentment

I am no stranger to the workings of a worried mind. Regrets from the past and anxieties about the future constricted my thoughts for years and left me unable to admire the beauty of the present moment. Suffering from depression and anxiety, my words and actions reflected the negativity and pain I felt inside. As a result, I struggled to maintain healthy relationships, including my relationship with myself. I was never content with where I was, constantly trapped in the mindset of wanting and needing more. It didn’t matter what grades I received, how much money I made, who I was dating or what clothes I was wearing. I had unintentionally trained my mind to see only what was lacking or wrong in my life and to fear losing the progress and possessions I felt I had worked so hard for, the things I felt belonged to me. I always had such high expectations of myself and of others, and as a result, I was constantly disappointed.

Through reading, practicing yoga and self-inquiry I have learned how to become aware of and to separate myself from these types of thought patterns. I am still learning, but now I consciously and consistently work towards being aware of the present moment and embracing all that beauty that surrounds me. I make time for self-care and activities that create space for gratitude in my life. As time goes on, this practice feels more and more natural, and I am able to look back on how far I have come and how much more abundant and joyful my life has become as a result.

My outlook on life has shifted from worrisome to hopeful, from frantic to peaceful. My priorities in life have changed as well. Rather than desiring material items I am drawn towards authentic experiences, connections and travel. Instead of wanting a bigger, nicer home and buying more and more clothes, my heart and mind gravitate towards simplicity. In terms of material items, I own less than ever, but I can say one thing now honestly that I never could have before...I am happy.

The five Niyamas (observances) that are a part of the eight-limbed yogic path guide us towards living in a liberated state of existence. The second Niyama is Santosa, which means contentment. Santosa is complete acceptance of ourselves, our circumstances and of others. Rather than expecting more or being disappointed over what we think we lack, we instead focus on finding contentment in the here and now. Surely this is easier said than done, but with consistent practice we can re-train our minds and cultivate more stillness and joy in our daily lives.

You can get started right now! Take a deep breath, and ask yourself how you are feeling at this moment. If it happens to be a feeling that you want to change, ask yourself what it is that you need in order to feel at peace. Is there a conversation that needs to be had? Do you just need to vent? Do you need to say no more often? Maybe you just need a hug! Pay attention to your breath as you do this, and you’ll notice that it automatically slows down. The mind and body follow the breath; relaxed breath encourages a relaxed physical and mental state. It creates space for gratitude to enter into your life. As often as you can, take a deep breath and check in with how you’re feeling. You will immediately be drawn into the present moment, the only moment that actually exists.  Trust that everything you are feeling and experiencing is temporary and always believe that good things are coming. I promise you they are. I promise you that good things are already here.