We have come to the second niyama which is santosa. If you missed the first niyama about Sauca you can read all about that niyama here.
Now, let’s dive into santosa.
Santosa is most often translated as contentment. It could also be translated to radical acceptance. 100 percent acceptance. Complete and total acceptance of what is. For me personally, meditation is the place where I can practice this niyama the most. When I sit in meditation I kind of just have to sit with whatever is without moving or reacting to whatever is there. I can practice contentment of what is.
Life is not always going to be exactly as you would like it. For instance, I have practiced yoga in loud places, in tiny hotel rooms, in the living room with people around me, with my mom asking me a million questions, very hot places, very cold places, dogs wanting to play with me while I’m practicing. You just have to practice santosa, contentment, with whatever is. Not just on your yoga mat, but in your life.
Life won’t always be perfect. There will be fires to put out, stressful phone calls, canceled flights, traffic jams, bad cups of coffee, broken phones… The list goes on and on and on. We need to find ways to accept these circumstances and situations. Especially, if we can’t do anything about it.
Searching for santosa outside yourself
If you search for contentment outside yourself you will be searching for the rest of your life. If you can be content, satisfied, full with yourself and root your sense of wholeness within yourself it gives you the space between you and the world to be free. In my opinion acceptance is also a form of freedom.
Practicing santosa, or contentment, is hard. You will be sick of practicing in tiny hotel rooms. You will feel frustrated when your favorite coffee shop is closed, you will feel annoyed when your flight gets canceled… Many emotions will arise and uncomfortable emotions will also arise. However, whatever is simply is.
When was the last time you felt accepted for who you are? Think about it for a moment. No really, think about it. Perhaps when you were in love? When you are in love there is this sense of innocent acceptance.
In my opinion santosa is not only accepting but also this innocent perception, which could also be called a loving gaze. No judgment, just presence. Here I am and here you are and this is okay. Santosa is an innocent perception, a loving gaze. How can we look at everything with this loving, accepting gaze? Both with ourselves and others? We love what we see in the mirror. You are good. You too.
I feel that santosa can move very deeply into our lives. But I actually also feel that this is one of the hardest niyamas to practice. It is hard to accept whatever is. Sometimes, it is really hard. In fact, it probably is the easiest to practice on the mat. It is hard to practice santosa in real life.
I fail at this all the time, but I also keep practicing santosa day after day. But it is hard. Some days it’s easier than others. Some days I go much more with the flow and just accept whatever arises. Other days, it’s a real struggle. So don’t beat yourself up on the days where you struggle with practicing santosa. Don’t beat yourself up for getting stressed out or go into panic mode. What matters is that you keep practicing santosa, acceptance of what is.
I hope this post has given you a better and deeper understanding of what santosa is and how deeply this niyama can move into our lives.