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Mary E. Vandenack: Santosha • Contentment

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Santosha is the second niyama (observance). Santosha is defined as living in a state of satisfaction and happiness with that which is available to us.

We live in a culture that fosters discontentment. If we watch television, we are inundated with advertisements that feed on our insecurities and lead us to believe we are inadequate and that we need all types of things to become adequate. We become attached to people, places and things. We covet that which we don't have and believe that we will only be happy when we have the right person, the beautiful house, the fabulous sports car, enough Botox and filler to make us look ten years younger, enough money in our bank account, or the drug that is going to have an amazing impact on our intimate relationships. Many of us are in constant pursuit of an object outside ourselves.


Many of us spend a lot of time wishing things were different. We know we will feel better when we lose ten pounds and may be constantly frustrated with our seeming inability to drop them. We wish for our children to grow up and, when they do, we wish we had a full house again. We wish for the right job and complain about the one we have.

Contentment is not coveting that which we don't have. We become independent of objects, activities and people for our happiness and find satisfaction with who we are, just as we are. Our happiness becomes unconditional. Contentment is a peaceful kind of happiness in which we can rest without desire for that which is "more" or different. 


How many times have you said something like, "Well, I tried and it just never happens for me. I give up!" Or, "It's not in the cards for me." Or, "I'm used to it so it doesn't matter anymore." There is a difference between an attitude of self-consolation and contentment. Self-consolation reflects disappointment. Such disappointment is likely to lead to anger and resentment.

Achieving serenity is a decision. It is a personal commitment, not complacency. It requires a decision and action. It doesn't just happen.


The path to contentment is individual. I find that the daily practice of yoga and meditation supports me in finding contentment. Another approach might be to keep a gratitude journal. In keeping such a journal, it is important to use it on difficult days. Noting those things for which you are grateful can pull you out of almost any funk.

You might support a practice of contentment by sharing gratitude thoughts at a family meal. You might adopt practices such as opening shades in the morning and just noticing and appreciating the light or the birds flying about or even the bricks that block your view.
An important part of gratitude practice is to learn to express to yourself appreciation for yourself. So many of us spend so much time berating ourselves for not making the mark in some manner during the day. Look in the mirror and list the positive things about yourself. It is within that body, mind and soul that you will find contentment. Self-loathing will keep you on the path of unhappiness.


When we learn to find satisfaction with ourselves as we are and with what we have, we become emotionally mature. Our personal crisis is no longer the end of the world. We are not devastated at the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, or the onset of an illness. We stop asking "Why me?" and find a positive way to handle the challenges life throws our way.


Mary E. Vandenack, while a lawyer by profession, has studied extensively in mind/body areas of fitness and wellness. She is Yoga Alliance RYT-200, Power Pilates certified, ACE certified and has completed her Stott Pilates comprehensive studies, as well as a variety of work in nutriition.

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