Contentment and Contrast


In yoga philosophy, contentment has its own highlighted spot in Patanjali's Sutras. Contentment, or Santosha in Sanskrit, has always been a highlighted treasure for me too. My friend Susan brought it up in a comment in my last blog post as a goal she holds dear as well. She also commented that we can't know the happy without the sad. I spoke of this briefly in the Wake Up & Be in Love blog:

"It starts with being grateful that there's this negative experience to begin with. Because without that how would I know I want to change? You know, the old,  "Without the darkness, how would you know there's light"  thing."  I thought maybe this warranted further exploration.

You might think of it as contrast: the dark and the light, happy and sad, angry and joyful, etc. Without one, the other is meaningless, right? Or at least can't be experienced fully. The experience of negative emotion in response to anything can be instructional. It can shine a light on what's not desired in sometimes very dramatic ways.

Shine the Light

That's the struggle piece I was talking about last week. And probably most of us get stuck there - ruminating, struggling. But what can be helpful about the negative emotion is it gives us the opportunity to pivot - do the 'ole 180. Ultimately, that's the purpose of the negative experience: point out more clearly what is desired, at the same time strengthening our motivation to go there instead. Changing your approach from struggle to wondering what or how to change, as suggested last week, puts you in a better frame of mind to do that. Waking up and spotlighting what you're in love with does that too.

The Spotlight

And here's another benefit:

Viewing all these contrasting experiences as helpful self-awareness tools can really liberate you from that human tendency to criticize (a pretty nasty experience, if you think about it), especially yourself. Because you can understand the negative (contrast) as serving you! Now you are free to focus instead on what's better. What you want more of.

More of This?


Or More of This?

How about contentment? Just what is contentment? Probably the best way I've heard it described is being at ease in one's situation, body & mind. And ironically speaking, Socrates wisely said, "He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have."

I don't mean to say if I'm contented I have no ambition or desires. I'd just rather approach life from that state of contentment (at ease with what is) instead of a state of struggle, or fear, or whatever negative emotion has arrived. My friend Roberta commented last week, "A state of contentment, I feel, is easier on the entire experience." Yup. Then I can approach what life serves up (contrast) with curiosity, wonder, and yes, love.

Hmm. I wonder how can I do that? How does one turn the contrast of what you don't want into what you do want from a place of contentment? Sounds like more Food for Thought - and perhaps another blog. What do you think?

Ruminate & Struggle, or Wonder & Contentment?