Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what is “enough”? Enough can be a very relative term, right? But it is an absolutely helpful universal question to ask if we want to finally, fully get a sense of contentment and satisfaction in our lives, something yogis would call Santosha.
When we’re young, it seems nothing is ever enough. As a kid, I had a good case of wanderlust, a desire to break free from my small, parochial childhood environment and set sail out into the world. I was, it must be said, a bit trapped in a world that could not possibly understand my nature. For those of us who are artists, or highly sensitive, it is valuable to remember it’s not necessary for others to understand us for us to find our way in the world. So, not feeling we have enough is a really great motivator to get us to break free from the warm and cozy confines of childhood.
As I have aged and as life has given me so much, I realized it’s not so much the “what” I have, but the “how I approach what I have” that matters. What we get is what we get, whether we are corralling life’s many opportunities with a golden lasso or just letting life float by and cherry picking from what comes along. But the how, how we allow ourselves to be immersed in the fullness of life is what can make the difference between being happy and unhappy.
This brings us to Santosha— that of contentment and satisfaction. It’s that feeling that there is enough, you have enough. Take a breath and just feel it now, reading this essay. Feels good, right? The present moment is, after all, enough.
As yogis, we try to practice it all the time in class, when we remember to, and then in life. But it’s those moments in life when you don’t have what you want - can you practice contentment then? Let’s be honest—there is always something that we want, that we long for. Practicing Santosha can take away the suffering from our natural, inherent need to desire for things and the discomfort that can create.
It’s human nature to desire, and although it’s probably true that we cannot “have it all” all at the same time, we do tend to inch our way into alignment with our constantly changing dreams and vision. The Buddhists might say this is karma, an endless cycle of suffering caused by craving and aversion. The Christians might say that desire is risky, a never-ending cycle of wants that usually get us in trouble. Yet many might say that desire is natural, and that we might as well just be conscious of what we long for, how we are creating, how we are reacting to it all, and let the flow of life just be what it is.
For your life, what is enough? How does your idea of enough compare to what your life looks like right now? When I say it, that I have enough right now, it feels really good. It doesn’t mean I have no additional desires. It is worth the effort to accept that which has been afforded us, to appreciate the natural flow and abundance of life, and to trust that as circumstances change, the flow will stay steady. With feeling we have enough, feeling satiated and satisfied, we are more able to hold longing without demonizing it, or pushing it away, or criticizing others who seem to fulfill their longings easily.
Health, love, friendship, a sense of security, prosperity—there’s a lot most of us need or want to feel that we have enough. In every person’s heart there is almost always a little niggling, a little yearning, a bit of the grass being greener on the other side syndrome. This is what being human really is—to desire and to create.
Enough is a willingness to practice Santosha, or contentment and satisfaction with what is, even if what is seems horribly short of the enough we had in our minds. Assuming you have food and shelter, Enough is then a philosophy and a perspective of appreciation. Once we realize that we always have the power to change the outer circumstances in our lives to better match our inner longings, than we more gracefully sit in the longing without all the drama or resentment. What a wonderful feeling this is.
Ask yourself: What is enough? (Suggestion: Use it as a writing prompt and spend 15 minutes writing out what is enough.) Then, sit and practice Santosha/contentment, and allow yourself to feel really good about this moment.