Acceptance doesn’t mean giving in, but it’s a skill we can cultivate to live more at ease. Yes, I know that acceptance is hard, but with yoga, we can learn how.
Sometimes we find it difficult to see the good in people, places, or situations. We resist and go against those situations and people, maybe by whining about how so and so gets on your nerves, or how the situation you are in is unfair. Complaining might have a temporary relief effect, but long term it’ll keep you stuck and suffering.
I know it well, I’m currently doing that… a lot. I’m stuck in a particular situation and I feel that every time I ‘share’ it with someone (so, let’s face it… I complain!) it gets better. But that is just getting me more and more stuck.
We whine and complain because we perceive some situations as ‘bad’. That could be real, or imaginary or just a fact of life like getting older! Sometimes what we really need is to encourage ourselves to look deeply into all things in our lives to see the inherent goodness at the heart of everything. Then the real change can begin.
We must simply see that things are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’, they just are; and the first step to move forward, to make real change is to accept where we are, even to accept ourselves in our present stage of life.
At the core of this inquiry is the practice of unconditional acceptance, or Santosha.
Santosha is the second niyama described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. It can be translated as ‘contentment, or accepting one’s circumstances’.
Santosha is generally considered to be both an attitude and a state of deep inner peace. Through practising Santosha, the yogi is freed from cravings and desires, which is an essential part of spiritual development.
Santosha is closely related to equanimity, in that practising it allows one to accept whatever circumstances present themselves, including pleasure, pain, success or failure.
Santosha is manifested on a number of levels:
- Intent: putting one’s best efforts into any action, then accepting whatever results come from doing so. That means that practising Santosha doesn’t mean just accepting our circumstances meekly. We are still working towards changing what can be changed, be that ourselves, or the things we can affect… but whilst doing our very best we also accept the outcomes.
- Inner state: a mindset of contentment also supports other virtues like compassion. It’s not enough to accept, sometimes we also need to develop compassion and understanding. If it’s too difficult toward a particular person or circumstances, at least toward ourselves. Here is where we try to find ‘the silver lining’.
- Expression: the outward manifestation of Santosha is the appearance of serenity and total satisfaction, without superfluous desires.
On the mat, Santosha can be exercised by accepting oneself; by accepting the body’s limitations, without getting anxious or frustrated about what it can or can’t do today.
We can also practice meditations like Metta, a Buddhist practice of compassion. Or practice gratitude.
Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the tools most recommended by mental health professionals for its simplicity and positive results.
If you find the word ‘journal’ intimidating, don’t worry, it can be as simple as writing down just 3 sentences or even just 3 words on a piece of paper. And if you don’t like writing just saying it aloud before bed or in the early morning will do.
You can also find many guided simple gratitude meditations you can follow.
I know all this stuff, but still, when I find something difficult I forget it all. Suddenly I stop my practice, I complain, I go into denial, I mentally fight against things, and I tell myself that I wish things were different. But all that makes me the only one suffering.
Currently, I’m finding myself in some challenging circumstances…
So I am going back to my gratitude journal, to double my meditation efforts and back to my metta practice.
My circumstances won’t change but I can definitely learn to find more enjoyment in my situation, maybe see the positive side or even a clear line of action to take.
How about you? Are you stuck somewhere? Can you identify with any of the things I’m talking about? If not now maybe you can recognise yourself in the past.
The practice of yoga is so much more than postures on a mat, it’s a whole philosophical system that can guide us to live a more fulfilling life.
If you’d like to dive a little bit deeper into the 5 Yamas of Patanjali whilst practising Vinyasa on the mat, check out my online course ‘Vinyasa and the Yamas’
Montse has been working for the last 30 years in the world of theatre and performance as a director, mentor and performer. Her passion for sharing her knowledge and her desire to help others realise their true potential has led her onto the path of yoga teaching.
Her classes are relaxed, friendly and with elements of yin, hatha, vinyasa and humour where everyone feels welcome, regardless of their skill. Montse’s motto is ‘be your own template’, both in life and in yoga.
Your shape is unique and so is your life so don’t follow the ‘should be like this’ crowd and don’t try to fit into anyone else’s path, find your own… on and off the mat.
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