Monday, October 17, 2011

Santosha--Cultivating Gratitide

As we end every practice together, we pause for a moment of reflection and gratitude. This tradition is not merely an opportunity to thank our fellow yogis and yoginis, it's an intentional discipline: awareness of the shared world around us.
We are all interconnected; our lives are touched and even enhanced by those connections. Choosing to be grateful for all the threads that weave through our mutual experience is one of yoga's benefits.

Cultivation of gratitude, santosha, can lift our hearts beyond the daily aggravations and inconveniences. When one of us shares a story or gift; when we encourage one another; when we pause to smell the roses outside; when we make a selfless and generous gesture--we receive the benefits of santosha.

It's not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, and it's certainly not about ignoring what in our world needs improvement or correction. Rather, santosha is about saving every gift that comes our way, everyday, and taking the time to acknowledge that gift.

We all have had at least one person in our lives for whom this principle is seriously missing: the chronic complainer. The self-absorption of what is wrong in his or her life is physically fatiguing, not only for the whiner, but for the listener! In the same way, looking beyond our personal selves and connecting with others can be contagious, and a great deal more uplifting.

What is particularly blissful about the concept of santosha is the cycle of positivity that emanates from the smallest action. Whether it's enjoying the free figs that were offered this summer, or delicious granola, or coffee and cookies to replenish Northminster's generousity--the open spirit of gratitude extends into our relationships with one another. It feels wonderful to share, to enjoy our interconnectedness, and to take the time to enjoy the little "goodies" that come our way everyday. And being grateful for all those in our lives, past and present, who contribute to our world.

Here's an excerpt from Yoga Journal, written by Frank Jude Boccio, with a brief and eloquent explanation of santosha.
"At the grocery store, a friend was bowled over by the simplest act of kindness: A stranger let her step ahead of him in the checkout line. It was such a little thing, and yet it swelled her heart with happiness. What she experienced, she ultimately realized, was more than just gratitude for a chance to check out faster—it was an affirmation of her connection to a stranger and, therefore, to all beings.
"On the surface, gratitude appears to arise from a sense that you're indebted to another person for taking care of you in some way, but looking deeper, you'll see that the feeling is actually a heightened awareness of your connection to everything else. Gratitude flows when you break out of the small, self-centered point of view—with its ferocious expectations and demands—and appreciate that through the labors and intentions and even the simple existence of an inconceivably large number of people, weather patterns, chemical reactions, and the like, you have been given the miracle of your life, with all the goodness in it today.
"It is easy, as Roger L'Estrange, the 17th-century author and pamphleteer, said, to 'mistake the gratuitous blessings of heaven for the fruits of our own industry.' The truth is, you are supported in countless ways through each moment of your life. You awaken on schedule when your alarm clock beeps—thanks to the engineers, designers, assembly workers, salespeople, and others who brought you the clock; by the power-company workers who manage your electricity supply; and many others. Your morning yoga practice is the gift of generations of yogis who observed the truth and shared what they knew; of your local teacher and of her teacher; of the authors of books or videos you use to practice; of your body (for which you could thank your parents, the food that helps you maintain your good health, doctors, healers, and the "you" who cares for that body every day)—the list goes on.
"When you awaken to the truth of this incredible interconnectedness, you are spontaneously filled with joy and appreciation. It is for this reason that one of the most transformative practices you can engage in is the cultivation of gratitude. Patanjali wrote that santosha (contentment, or appreciation for what you have) leads to unexcelled joy, while other yogic texts say that this sense of appreciation is the "supreme joy" that naturally leads to the realization of the Absolute. Thankfully, gratitude can be cultivated. It simply takes practice."

And, that's what we do at NPC Yoga Community--we practice. 

Until next week, namaste,

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