No, this is not going to be a Thanksgiving post...(not yet! I'm saving all the give-thanks-love-your-family goodness for later in the week...)! Though I suppose what I want to talk about here is not completely unrelated to gratitude...or perhaps it's at least a stepping stone...
What I want to talk about is contentment.
It's not the most GLAMOROUS of all the states of being. In the same world where Katy Perry's chest explodes in fireworks in music videos...it's difficult to make contentment sound appealing. It's hard to make it sound like anything less than a snooze-fest, actually. And if you check out the dictionary, it is full of definitions like
Blech! Booo! Satisfied with the way things are?! Um, I'm sorry, I am a child of the 21st Century, I do not ACCEPT things as they are, I MAKE things happen! And if I don't, well, that means that I'm a looooooooooooosah. And I'll just keep that to myself whilst bemoaning all the not-the-way-I-want them things that surround me and furiously making vision boards and lists of affirmations.
But, the dictionary definition of contentment is not the contentment I'm talking about.
The contentment I'm talking about is santosha. Yes, it's a yoga word. (You knew it was coming.) It's actually one of the edicts of one of the 8 limbs of yoga. It's like...one of the yoga commandments. Thou shalt be content.
Now, I have never been a girl who really trucked in contentment (see above for examples), but I don't know...maybe it's that I've finally started meditating, maybe it's because I'm about to become an old married lady, maybe it's just because most of my life goals other than "find more joy" seem to have fallen by the wayside, but lately I've been thinking a lot more about this contentment, this santosha.
So, this morning I cracked open my old friend Patanjali (he wrote the which are, in my opinion, just a bunch of books full of jewels) to see what he had to say about contentment, and of course, in much fewer words and with much more stinging accuracy than I, he is able to identify the who-what-where of santosha. He says this
"As a result of contentment, one gains supreme joy."
Hmm...still sounds a little boooooooring. But, okay, go on...
"Here we should understand the difference between contentment and satisfaction."
Alright. I'm listening.
"Contentment means just to be as we are without going to outside things for our happiness. If something comes, we let it come. If not, it doesn't matter. Contentment means neither to like or dislike."
Wait, I'm sorry...repeat that first part?
"Contentment means just to be as we are without going to outside things for happiness."
Alright, thank you P-jolls, let me see if I've got this. Contentment means just to BE as we are without going to OUTSIDE THINGS for happiness. Not, "contentment means just give up" or "contentment means just resign yourself to the fact that you'll never get what you want." He's including happiness as part of this definition, right? And if he's saying that it's not on the OUTSIDE than it must be...that's right...on the INSIDE.
So, if I may take the liberty, Mr. Patanjali...?
Contentment means just BE happy.
Not because the stuff you want is on its way. Not because you've rejected stuff entirely and feel that you are now a purist. Not because you think if you play content all the stuff you want will be given to you. Not because you're just an unlucky one and you better get used to it, but because it IS possible to be content.
It IS possible to be happy, JOYFUL even, regardless of circumstance.
Because, and I think this is the whole lesson-plan of yoga, of meditation, of any spiritual practice...there is this little seed-self, hanging out inside you, who is blissed out, all the time. No matter what. She's in there. She's quiet and she's crinkle-eyed smiling and she's like that ALL THE TIME and is just waiting for you to get quiet enough yourself to feel that. To be able to touch that joy that is regard-less. And that's the whole enchilada. All these practices are just inventive routes into that center place of...smiling santosha.
And, I love this week of the year because I think that Thanksgiving is a very santosh-ic holiday. You're with your family, and even if they get on your nerves or push your buttons, there is (can be) a sweetness being with them, touching those roots that you have grown from. And there is all this "what are you thankful for" influence everywhere, which is of course about contentment--how can I look at my life and see what there is in it to be grateful for? Where is the happiness that exists without anything external changing? And the eating, of course. The eating. Talk about happiness from the inside out!
The whole holiday is built around turning inward, settling in, and appreciating what and who is around us.
So this year, yes, can we be grateful but ALSO can we be...content? Can it all just be exactly enough--the right place, the right people, the right food, the right weather--can we sit with that crinkle-eyed version of ourselves in the center and just eat it all up? (Um...so I guess I lied about this not being a Thanksgiving post...)