In Sanskrit, the meanings of santosha include delight, contentment, pleasure, joy, satisfaction. A large part of the whole yogic process is to become aware of your tendencies. For instance, whenever you go to a new place for a few days you get opportunities to see yourself away from the routine of your daily life. Then, you can see some of the patterns in your ways of thinking and in your emotional attitudes. The person who is unhappy or worried, and the person who finds fault in everything in his hometown, will likely see those same patterns appear in the place that he is visiting. Similarly, the person who finds delight and satisfaction in the place she lives, will probably use those filters when visiting another location. Knowing your tendencies enables you to apply the definition of yoga (1.2) by regulating your ways of being. This niyama is an invitation to clarify how useful some of your tendencies may be. For instance, do you find reasons to complain, or reasons to be content?
When reflecting on contentment, it is useful to remember that expectations are the seeds of future frustrations. When you choose to ignore that life is always changing and, most importantly, that it is unpredictable, you may convince yourself that you are able to predict accurately what will happen. Take a moment to consider how well you could have predicted six days ago where you are right now and what you are doing. Then start going farther back in time and try to assess how well you could have predicted the twists and turns of your life. Most people quickly realize that we are not very good at predicting. Moreover, it is quite likely that some mental processes don’t often reflect our inability to predict the future. Indeed, many of us act as if we were quite skilled at predicting the future. Our tendency to predict and to act like our predictions are accurate generates expectations that influence how we approach each unique moment. Often, we end up ignoring the newness of the moment because we are looking for the outcome we already predicted. This process often results in disappointment and frustration, because what is happening in our life does not reflect the fiction we have created in our minds. You may ask yourself if you tend to generate predictions and expectations. Then you can assess if those attitudes and actions contribute to create contentment in your life.
Contentment can also be explored from the perspective of noticing what you complain about or what you find fault in. Pondering this can give you insight into the conditions you place on the world outside. It may even expose a tendency to let the changes happening outside influence how you feel. If this is the case, you probably invest inordinate amounts of time and energy in trying to manipulate the world outside to meet your preferences. Since everything outside of you is in a constant process of change, you will find yourself in an endless process of trying to subject the unpredictability of life to your mental models or ideals. If this is your predicament, it can be quite helpful to recognize that most of us have very limited control over our own minds, bodies, breath and emotions. If you cannot control your own systems very well what makes you think that you can control the world outside, including the actions and reactions of other people? Michael Singer, author of The Untethered Soul, eloquently encapsulates pure common sense regarding contentment when he says: “Everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything. And that’s the only time everything will be okay.” What conditions are you putting on yourself, your life and others? What do you need in order to feel happy? Can the practice of gratitude open a door to contentment? What conditions and expectations would you need to drop to be okay with everything? Can you want what you have? What would it take for you to love your life as it is? The mantra, I AM CONTENT, can be a useful tool to move in the direction of contentment.
As usual, one more way of exploring the meaning of this sutra is by chanting it.
You can choose to chant it in its traditional form with some of the words coming together:
2.32 śauca saṃtoṣa tapaḥ svādhyāyeśvarapraṇidhānāni niyamāḥ
शौच संतोष तपः स्वाध्यायेश्वरप्रणिधानानि नियमाः ॥३२॥
Another option is to chant each word in the sutra individually:
If you prefer, you may listen to the podcast: