Santosha: Finding contentment, joy, acceptance and inner peace in life
The second chapter of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras contains the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga which are so beautifully described, like pearls of wisdom, across various sutras. The first two limbs, the yamas and niyamas, are the basis and foundation of all yoga practice. The yoga practice that strives for a higher and deeper consciousness; where one of the meanings of the human body is a tool for living in freedom. Freedom from both inner and outer mental oppression, limitations and condemnations. There clarity prevails, where there is an experience of ourselves as part of something higher. A spiritual dimension.
These first two limbs contain ten different concepts, each one large enough to fill many pages, yet at the same time they can be explained with a few words.
Santosha is one of these concepts and is described in the second branch of Patanjali’s eightfold path. Santosha can mean many things in Sanskrit. My interpretation is contentment, deep joy, experiencing some kind of inner peace with what is and even with what did not become. To be in the present moment in peace. Being able to look back and accept the decisions and choices that were made, which might have consequences we could not have imagined later in life. We have dreams, ideas about what life will give us, what we will experience, how we will live and how it will be. Life often becomes something completely different. Life has its own power and we are part of that power.
The decisions we make in different situations can bring consequences and lead us onto paths we never dreamed of walking on. They can also lead us away from paths we thought we would walk and things we thought would be a part of our reality in this life.
Accepting life as it is, without regretting, hiding or thinking about how it could have become, is not always easy; but a prerequisite for feeling and experiencing deeper happiness with what is and what has become.
Accepting the changes
I didn’t really have any clear ideas or imaginings of how life would be as I got older. I mostly lived on, following my feelings and my longing for freedom. I was seeking a higher meaning and worked on getting rid of my limiting thoughts and troublesome feelings. Certain things like family and children, of course, I thought of and took for granted that one day they would be so. But it did not come as I thought or imagined.
I have a family and wonderful friends. I feel a deeper and stronger love the older I become and the more I dare to let in. I have children and adolescents in my life who doubtless I would do all I can for. There are children I love strongly and from the depth of my heart. But I never had any children of my own. I have not given birth to a child or experienced a child grow inside me. I always thought that time lay before me, but the force of life wanted something different.
This has long been a deep sadness in me and something I’ve worked on in many different ways. A sorrow that taught me a lot about myself, about the pains of life and about life’s inner pearls.
Santosha is a concept that has given me a deep insight into the power of life and gained a life-giving meaning for me. To be contented and satisfied with what is, to accept what did not become, to accept the dreams that were never fulfilled and to see what is happy and gratifying in my life.
Surrendering to life’s power
Ishvara Pranidhana is another of the ten concepts that has meant a lot to me through the different phases of life. To strive to let go of the ego, surrendering life to a greater force than ourselves, but which we are all a part of. To strive for trust in that power and that everything will be as it should be. To find some peace with the power of life and humbly bow to the power we are all a part of, but we do not control.
Today, I can still feel sadness about the children who did not come through me, but that sorrow does not affect me as before. I see and experience all the riches of life, and I never feel childless. Instead, I see all the children and adolescents in my life as a gift to manage well. I feel grateful and a deep joy about being part of another’s life as we can be in many different ways.
I’d like to summarise with some well-chosen words from the Rolling Stones:
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you might find
You get what you need”
Life is an adventure of our own design, intersected by fate and a series of lucky and unlucky accidents - Patti Smith