joy *and* sorrow: santosha

“We try so hard to separate joy and sorrow into their own boxes,
but the Archbishop and the Dalai Lama tell us that they are inevitably fastened together. Neither advocate the kind of fleeting happiness, often called hedonic happiness, that requires only positive states and banishes feelings like sadness to emotional exile. 
The kind of happiness that they describe is often called eudemonic happiness
and is characterized by self-understanding, meaning, growth, and acceptance,
including life’s inevitable suffering, sadness, and grief.”

This is a quote from The Book of Joy. In Yoga philosophy, we might talk about the qualities described here as Aparigraha (non-grasping or letting go), Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender), and Santosha (contentment), which I’d like to highlight today.

All of these concepts are layered like sedimentary rock, and to say that Santosha means passively accepting whatever happens in your life is overly simplistic.

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Let’s take the example above from The Book of Joy. Every life will have moments of loss, disappointment and grief. Does that mean we should just be “fine” with it? Not exactly.

While the translation of Santosha is usually contentment, acceptance, satisfaction, ease or harmony, the deeper layers reveal a quality of openness that acknowledges oneself and one’s environment as it is.

Rather than being at war with reality, Santosha invites us to stop relentlessly chasing the next thing — more more more — and instead, rest into ourselves as we are. That place of willingness and honesty is the only place from which true change can occur.

It could also be described as the lack of trsna, or craving. This speaks to the common definition of suffering as “wishing things other than they actually are,” which is the opposite of Santosha.

Is this easy? Absolutely not. Which is why we need support, reminders, and a healthy dose of discipline to keep practicing (because like strengthening a muscle, we can get better at it).

Arguably, the practice of Yoga could be described as the process of self-reliance, self-examination and self-development.

For me personally, this is the heart of practice and teaching — to become aware of myself more honestly, to see what I would otherwise try to camouflage, and ultimately to develop the aspects of myself that do not serve me or the world.

Consider what your intention is in practice:
How does the way you approach practice create its outcome?