If the yamas are an ethical code of conduct through which we can measure our behavior, the niyamas are a similar set of guidelines prescribed to develop our will and therefore assist in energy control. Within these guidelines, samtosha is the practice of being content. Like so much of the material I am reading to prepare for my upcoming training, this concept really resonates with me.
Let me elaborate…
We are taught to be content with what we have from a very young age. Well, most of us are. Unfortunately, many of us tend to lose sight of this concept as we continue on in life. Lori got a car for her 16th birthday. I got a new pair of coveralls. It hardly seemed fair. Yet none of my sisters got cars for their 16th birthday either and somehow we all learned to appreciate what we were given and be content with that. My parents did not seek to deprive us of the luxuries our friends where enjoying but felt strongly in teaching the value of hard work and money. It doesn’t come easy in life; why should it come easy on your 16th birthday. Indeed, all of us have followed suit with our children.
What about when it comes to being content with ourselves and where we are, from our careers to our level of fitness, at any given time? Are we content or do we wish for something different? Something MORE?
When I read a paragraph about samtosha, just before heading out for a lunchtime walk, I immediately thought about my morning yoga practice. Just the thought of calling what I did on my mat this morning “practice” brought doubt to my mind. My brain had questioned my calling it practice? But I will insist that it was, for the 30 minutes or so consisted of breath, mindful movements, and a steady look within.
It was a step up from yesterday – when just getting down the stairs was a huge accomplishment. After this morning’s journey downstairs, I meditated downstairs, cross-legged on the couch, with espresso in hand for about 20 minutes before I even attempted the return to my room. By the time I arrived my whole body, including my sciatic nerve, was quite and relaxed. I was content and, from here, decided to roll out my mat to explore which movements or asanas felt good and which did not. It wasn’t much but I was pleased with myself a short while later as I lay in savasana.
Satisfied that I has chipped away at more of my lessons, I laced up my shoes and took off down the railroad tracks for a walk. I passed several runners along the way and watched as they seemed to speed down the dirt path. For a moment, I longed to be running too: to feel the wind in my hair, hear the dirt crunching under my feet, and to feel the sweat rolling off of me. Then I reminded myself to be content with just walking. For truly, it is good just to be outside on such a glorious day. At this moment, I practice samtosha and I am indeed content.