29 March 2011

Week 9: Philosophy

“Contentment is a dynamic and constructive attitude that brings us to look at things in a new way.”
Is Santosa an attitude we bring to our activities or is it an effect of our actions?

As one of the niyamas, santosa is one method we can use to reduce our suffering by not struggling with things over which we have no control. I agree with Bouchard’s quote that contentment is an attitude. We have a choice in how we see the world: accept that which we cannot change or struggle and fight things outside of our control. However, choosing the struggle simply creates suffering. There is so much suffering already in the world one has to wonder why anyone would intentionally choose to create more. Often I think it is because we do not realize that the power to avoid suffering lies within us.

Choosing to remain content in our hearts and minds despite what happens in our environment is an amazing and powerful tool that allows us to create a peaceful life for ourselves, which in turn creates a more peaceful life for those around us. It may seem an alien idea to many Westerners, contentment as a conscious choice. And yet, when put into practice, the act of choosing to remain content in the the hustle of daily life – or even during a crisis – is so powerful that it proliferates almost on its own. When you face a difficult situation calmly, with no attachment to the outcome, things go more smoothly and the peace within your heart and mind is maintained. Our focus on the end result makes santosa a challenge to continually apply, which is precisely the point of Bouchard’s quote.

Santosa is dynamic and ever changing, just like prakriti. If we do not learn to be as flexible in mind as many seek to be in body through asana, our mental stiffness will be a weakness. Ultimately we will find that our mental inflexibility causes us more suffering, although the intent was to reduce suffering by resisting change. But to resist nature is simply to create suffering, for prakriti is ever flowing, ever changing. When we find a way to move with the flow, we bring santosa into our lives by our own choices and actions.

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