Niyama, the second limb of ashtanga yoga, focuses the energy to within our internal self.
Too many a time we are overly absorbed in the external world, disturbed by the happenings and non-happenings in situations we can hardly even control. The one thing we can control, in each and every situation, is our internal self.
In Patangjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the Niyamas is Santosha, which means contentment.
What is Contentment?
Contentment is not an emotion. Emotion is a reaction to an external event. Contentment is never about what has happened externally.
If we do not find the secret to contentment, we will never be contented. We have to learn to be contented in each situation, regardless good or bad.
There is certainly more than one technique to contentment. Personally to me, the most straight-forward technique has to be contentment through detachment. The following are reminders to myself and I hope you find them useful too.
I have 3 attachments which I am learning to let go – to be detached from outcomes, from opinion of others, from material belongings.
Detached from outcomes
When we are detached from outcomes, we let go of our expectations. So what if we did not achieve our intended outcome? And what if we did achieve our intended outcome? The happiness derived from achieving our intended outcome is often short-lived. If we base our emotions on outcomes, we can never be truly contented because then we focus too much energy on results and not live in the moment.
“Life is a journey, not a destination.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Detached from opinion of others
When we are detached from the opinions of others, we let go of others’ expectations on us. By choosing to be free from the opinions of others, we become independent and take control and responsibility of our own life, decisions and emotions.
Recently I realized that the ones who truly love me will never impose their opinions on me for all they wish is for me to be happy and free – I recently quit my job in a prestigious company, a job which may be perceived to be “good” to many people and certainly to my parents. I know they find it puzzling and probably even incomprehensible why I left my job, especially without securing another job, but they have never once doubted me nor have they tried to talk me out of my decision. They allowed me to be free, to follow my heart, and they are the ones who truly matters.
Detached from material belongings
We often associate material belongings to happiness – cars, expensive bags, new shoes. Me included – I used to seek these material goods as if they are treasures and the origin to my happiness. The happiness derived from material possessions is temporary.
When we base our happiness on the possessions we have, the craving for new material things will come to no end, then it is human nature to never be satisfied.
The next time you find yourself being affected by an unintended result, something someone said about you or an unhealthy obsession towards a material good, remind yourself to let it go. Focus on being contented and redirect your energy to the people and things that truly matters.
When you are discontent, you always want more, more, more. Your desire can never be satisfied. But when you practice contentment, you can say to yourself, ‘Oh yes – I already have everything that I really need’ – Dalai Lama