Archive | May, 2011

Seeking contentment in the garden, on the mat and in life

30 May

Few things can challenge me to practice santosha than a day off from work. A day unencumbered by the obligations of work dawns with a long list of goals: This is the day, I tell myself, I finally get around to ticking off all those chores that have been nagging me for months.

Steeled with determination, energy, a sunny outlook and a hearty breakfast, I set off, much like the thoroughbreds leaving the gates at the sound of the bell, only ever less gracefully. Out come a myriad tools, gadgets and widgets designed to help me complete the tasks. I find myself creating weigh stations as I go along — rest stops for things that I need haul upstairs or downstairs, temporary work stations for yet even more tasks.

Santosha is the second observance or niyama in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Santosha means contentment, and that speaks to a whole lot of peace of mind and serenity with what we have and what we’ve accomplished; our situation, our lot. It’s easy to lose our grasp of santosha, after all we live in a world that is always reminding us we need more, new, better, bigger, faster, shinier. What we have, what we acquired yesterday, last week, last year is no longer good enough.

So that by midafternoon — having long wilted from the heat and the labor — I pause to take stock of what I’ve accomplished. What? All that, and I’ve only just barely made a dent in the front garden? What about the back, I begin to complain internally. I’m never going to get to the back. And just like that, the thoughts begin to spin out of control: disappointment that I haven’t done more; resentment that tomorrow is a work day and that means I can’t spend it in the garden; throw in a little garden envy as I peer across to my neighbor’s meticulously manicured garden.

Then I check myself: santosha. I remind myself to be grateful for the wonderful day in the garden, for all I accomplished, for the plants I committed to the soil, the birds that serenaded me, the breeze that cooled my back. This simple meditation immediately brings me back to the peace and harmony of the moment. I find contentment in my affirmation that what I accomplished today is good enough. I am content.