This is a special time of year! The air is cooler, the holidays are approaching, and we look forward to celebrations with our loved ones, family and friends. Growing up, I enjoyed family gatherings, but honestly never really cherished them as I do now, having grown older and having experienced the loss of loved ones. I realize now how precious these times are, how quickly time passes, and rather than indulgence, I look forward to laughter, playfulness, hugs, kisses, and meaningful conversations.
It’s a time of Thanksgiving, or giving thanks, and giving in general. In fact, that is the exact opposite of how I viewed this holiday when I was young. It just didn’t dawn on me that aside from spending time with my family, it wasn’t about eating so much of my grandmother’s favorite dishes that I could no longer button my pants. Of course, I was thankful for that deliciousness, but today my scope of thankfulness has grown to include so much more… the ability to practice yoga, the connection with loved ones living and passed on, watching my children grow into young , responsible little people, the birds, the Earth, and simply the ability to breathe. It’s this deep gratitude for the simple yet profound things in life that to me brings the most joy, and it is this idea I am trying to teach my children.
One of the teachings of yoga that I have found most helpful is the idea of santosha or contentment (Yoga Sutra 2.42). Contentment means looking within for happiness, to be just as we are without seeking external things for satisfaction or joy. If something comes to us, let it, if we lose something, then let it go, but our sense of equanimity and balance does not depend on these external fluctuations. We can apply this useful tool in so many ways, especially during this time. If we find ourselves stressed about holiday preparations, pause for a deep breath and focus on something that is going correctly or perhaps on the fact that whether or not the meal turns out perfectly, the opportunity to spend precious time together is what really matters. Cultivating gratitude and giving thanks for what is at this moment is a wonderful doorway to santosha.
When we take time to focus on things for which we are grateful, it opens our mind to a broader perspective. We’re less consumed by our own downfalls, problems or short-comings, and more readily available to focus on others and how we can help those in need. Each and every moment of life is a gift and the sooner we wake up to this awareness the sweeter life becomes and remains. Every experience becomes richer, even the seemingly mundane tasks like paying bills and doing dishes, even the challenges including loss, and especially the sweet times. As Maya Angelou said, “When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” And when we practice santosha, we wake up the miracle that we are alive.
Sending you and your loved ones many blessings for peace this holiday season.
Yoga Sutra 2.42 From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.
santosha anuttamah sukha labhah