Santosha

Tomorrow is my birthday, as I sit here and reflect on my year, I noticed the urge to write about a recent experience I had, and so I went with it.

As my clients know, my most precious personal and professional tool is the Calm app. (I swear, I do not own any shares in this company).  A few days ago, the daily calm (which is the app’s daily featured meditation) was: Santosha. I was intrigued, as I had never seen that word before. Wow.  I have been processing this concept ever since. I did this meditation a total of four times now: I really wanted to let it sink in. Because what I felt deep inside me the first time I heard what Santosha means, was a true and authentic sense of peace.

Santosha is a Sanskrit word: sam refers to completely or entirely and tosha refers to acceptance or contentment. Santosha therefore means ‘complete contentment’. Tamara Levitt, who is guiding this meditation, explains to us that in order to practice santosha, we need to notice the stories we are reinforcing in our minds.  It’s about being enough, having enough. We often get caught up in “when I get this, everything will fall into place”, or “when I lose 20 lbs, I’ll be happy”, or, or…the list goes on. The stories we tell ourselves about our lives suggest there is always something missing, some incomplete piece keeping us from happiness. Tamara reminds us it is natural to have goals and to want to grow and challenge ourselves, but it becomes unhealthy when we base our happiness on some ever-elusive external goal.

I found myself wishing for something last week that I had never wished for before. Anytime I look at the clock and I see 11:11, I make a wish, a longstanding habit many of us have. So, the first night I listened to this meditation, I found myself saying this: I wish for life to continue as it is. I felt completely peaceful, I dare say blissful. I was curious and excited about what this could mean for me. I thought: what if I can feel this feeling at least once everyday? What if I can manifest it? By pausing and delighting in moments of my here and now. My life is full of ups and downs just like everyone else. I have desires and wants, regrets, fears and so on. I also have a home, amazing kids, and many other things I am grateful for. If my life never changed from this moment- which of course it will- but if it didn’t, if this is how it was to be, I would be OK with that. Of course, this is not a new concept- practicing gratitude has been shown to increase moments of happiness and joy and thus decreasing symptoms of depression. I would argue that Santosha is more than practicing gratitude. As I understand it,  it is a state of being, a side effect if you will, of living in the moment.

Human beings are natural storytellers: think Hollywood. Television, movies, books, articles, we see the world in stories this is also true of our inner world. Next time you are waiting at the doctor’s, or in line somewhere, or stuck in traffic: notice the thoughts going through your mind, what’s the story? Are you ruminating about having said the ‘wrong’ thing to a colleague, or thinking about the fight you had with your partner, or visualising your plans for an upcoming weekend?  Whatever they are: there is story, and stories always have themes.

Notice themes like “I am strong”, or, “I am trying the best I can”, or, “I’m not good enough”, or, “I suck at relationships”, or, “I can’t control my anger”; this are common plots to our many story lines. We reinforce these themes with our behaviours. We do create our own realities, in that how we respond to life is what changes our reality. With time and practice, you will start to notice the stories for what they are: stories.  You will become familiar with them, and the emotions they evoke. You may even come to see that the stories are not representative of you, or that they are simply not true. They are biased and based on your subjective experiences. This will lead to the ability to see reality for what it is outside of the stories. Once you see reality as it is, you are creating space to live in the present moment. When “the light burning within you is a far more accurate reflection of who you are than the stories you’ve been telling yourself, that is when Santosha becomes possible” (B Grace Bullock as quoted by Tamara Levitt). So beautiful.  I felt the urge to share this with you. Can you imagine Santosha in your life?