According to Carl Rogers the founder of person centred psychotherapy “As no one else can know how we perceive, we are the best experts on ourselves”.
Initially I struggled with this concept thinking “how can this be true, I’ve listened to specialists throughout my life and they have never encouraged me to think of myself as my own authority”, however, as I sit quietly and mentally process this psychotherapeutic idealism then I am challenged to think outside of my comfort zone, and recognise the possibility of this statement being true, the simplicity that I do know myself best puts me in a unique position where I am responsible and able to get the best outcomes for me, whether it be in mind, body or soul form because maybe “What I am is good enough if I would only be it openly” Carl Rogers, c1970
(BACP Accred) Counsellor
A beautiful piece written by my lovely friend Kaz, on a subject that is rarely spoken out loud…Contentment and self-love.
Has this ever crossed your mind?
“I’ll be happy when…I get a promotion,
I’ve got my bigger car, when I’ve lost 3kg” and so on…
There always seems to be one or two things you feel could make you happier or more content. Having the drive and passion to grow and expand our minds and push ourselves towards a goal isn’t a bad thing at all but it can easily become bad when we base our entire sense of peace and happiness upon this.
This is where the Niyama, Santosha comes into it. Santosha is the second of the Niyamas of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga. The five Niyamas guide us towards a positive relationship with ourselves. This is so important as we cannot produce authentic, genuine relationships with others until can truly connect with ourselves. Santosha translates as ‘contentment’ in Sanskrit and as we all know – contentment isn’t the easiest thing to practice….
There is contentment and tranquility when the flame of the spirit does not waver in the wind of desire.B.K.S Iyenger
Ok, so I here you saying ‘It’s not as simple as that’ and I agree that yes, life can be difficult at times but ultimately isn’t the life that we perceive in fact our reality? We live in world that is driven by status and materialistic things. A world that is heavily influenced by media, the adverts on TV, in magazines and on social media all drive us to believe that we need pouty lips to look beautiful, the big wedding to have the happily ever after. Have you ever decorated your living room to then find yourself sitting there thinking ‘next up is the bathroom, then the bedroom, then the house is finished’ to then find that once you have done all of these goals you are still discontent and starting back with re-decorating the living room?
Who determines the above ideal? We do! Clever media and marketing plays a huge role in this view but ultimately it is your choice, your perception. If we practice Santosha daily, would we still feel the same way? I don’t think so. To remove the pressure that we put on ourselves to meet the idealism that society imprints on us is truly breath-taking. Such a huge weight off our shoulders, allowing us to embrace our true form, to recognise who we really are and what our true purpose is in life is.
The appreciation of non-attachment and ourselves is where the answer lies.
The widely known yogic text The Bhagavad Gita teaches us not to seek happiness outside of ourselves, but to recognise that peace and happiness lies within. To find Santosha you must ask yourself – If everything was taken away from me in an instant would I still feel whole? Would I still feel happy? Would I still feel content? If we rely on other things to make us happy or content, it can so easily be taken away from us. This can lead our ego to experience possessive, greedy, jealous, fearful feelings. Don’t get me wrong, my children make me happy, I feel content that I have a supportive family and nice materialistic things but I DON’T rely on my family, my children or nice clothes to make me happy, that comes from inside.
Change is inevitable
Everything is changing, our bodies, our minds, our surroundings. Like nature itself, which is constantly changing around us – the weather, the seasons, temperatures and life cycles – our body and mind too are subject to change. What made ‘us’ (and by ‘us’ I mean our body, mind and ego) happy one hour ago may cause us grief the next, but who we truly are underneath is unchanging, pure and true, and more than good enough!
Skip the pursuit of happiness, for what you are seeking has always and will always be within you.
For anyone who has got on their mat to practice yoga, you will have experienced this scenario; you’re easing yourself into a posture and you start to struggle, so you take a peek around the room to see whether you’re doing ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than someone else. Admit it – we’ve all been there at least once! Whether we can stay in downward dog for three minutes comfortably or three breaths, there will always be more ways to further and explore our practice. That’s the joy of yoga! We explore yoga at our own pace, listening to our bodies at all times. Standing splits may be achievable every day when it comes to flexibility but you may have had a rubbish nights sleep the night before class, so listening to your body you will know to back off a little and appreciate your body for getting off its butt to attend to practice, let alone surviving the day on four hours sleep! We need to accept ourselves as we are from minute to minute and day by day.
On the mat, we need to leave the ego at the door…we need to listen to our bodies. If we use force and push ourselves into an asana when our body isn’t ready yet, our body will respond by becoming rigid and contracting, almost like a defense mechanism trying to tell the mind “hey, I’m not feeling this whole head to shin lark today!” Forget what the other person is doing next to you…they may have done ballet in their childhood, she may be thinking how amazingly strong you are in arm balances. The point is that each body is different. Genetically we are all different. Our lifestyles are different. So, our yoga practice WILL inevitably be different. Accept that and be grateful that your butt is actually on the mat full stop!
Before and during your next yoga practice, take a moment to give thanks to yourself making the effort to be on your mat, to appreciate yourself for what you are, how far you have come and the opportunities you have ahead of you. Trust me, your body will thank you for listening. You will become more flexible, stronger and balanced when you let go of the need to be. The power is within and will come in its own time.
Namastè , Lea