Tag Archives: contentment

BLISS

I exist in BLISS when I exist in Reality

Bliss is an integral part of existence

Bliss is not euphoria or ecstasy

Not sadness or anger or self-loathing (duh!)

Bliss is deeply related to Equanimity

It resides in Not-Wanting

Not-Avoiding

Not-Moving

Bliss is found in STILLNESS

(that stillness that always exists in motion)

In Stillness

we enter the reality of THIS moment

Moving into THIS moment

and This one too…

I feel the embodied spirit

energy

prana

THAT I AM

and slowly

over time I feel

how everything is made of

BLISS


Happiness


Dianthus (barefoot photos)


Are you holed-up and snowbound today?  Home with the flu? Just plain lazy, lethargic, tamasic? Sounds like a good opportunity to watch an inspiring TED talk.With grateful permission, I am reprinting this post from Online classes.org.

15 TED Talks to Help You Find Happiness

Everyone finds happiness in something. Whether it be the exhilaration that swoops in after the completion of a new creation, or enjoying the cool air of a sunny autumn day or learning anything and everything about the world, even those who struggle with their moods still occasionally enjoy the concepts of joy and satisfaction. Though nobody’s journey completely parrots that of others, this eclectic selection of TED Talks showcases how nearly all people work towards one almost universal goal.

1. Stefan Sagmeister: The power of time off: Everyone knows the value of rest and respite — it recharges the mind, body and spirit and maximizes productivity. For designer Stefan Sagmeister, closing down his studio for a year and spending the time traveling and conceptualizing actively stimulates his creativity. Without it, he says, he never could have produced some of his favorite works. This TED Talk showcases some of the different projects he conceived while on sabbatical, and discusses how to make the most of scheduled downtime.

2. Philip Zimbardo prescribes a healthy take on time: Renowned Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo delves deeply into how cognition and perception play a role in establishing happiness, comfort and stability. He cites the “time paradox” as one of the major stress factors in peoples’ lives, suggesting a shift in understanding how it works can alleviate a goodly chunk of the problem. Awareness of one’s mental and physical orientation in the past, present and future makes it much easier to set firm priorities and goals. Based on his research, Zimbardo outlines what he believes to be the healthiest, happiest, most productive strategy for time management.

3. Nic Marks: The Happy Planet Index: Although the old adage dictates that money rarely purchases happiness, nations still tend to rank their success more on economic productivity than the true satisfaction of its citizenry. The Happy Planet Index attempts to juxtapose resource consumption and overall personal contentment, and the most joyous locales on Earth are not necessarily what one would assume. Through complex statistics and painstaking research, Nic Marks challenges many of the common myths regarding the relationship between finances and emotions.

4. Srikumar Rao: Plug into your hard-wired happiness: Persistently questioning and pining away for possessions and affections remains one of the most common roadblocks to discovering happiness. Most people never seem to realize that sloughing off such a mindset significantly improves their outlook on events both major and minor. Fortunately, Dr. Srikumar Rao makes a compelling case that most (though not all) people are born with the capacity to forge their own individual sense of satisfaction — largely free of over-preoccupied thinking.

5. Paula Scher gets serious: For creative types especially, designer Paula Scher’s lecture perfectly sums up the oft-lauded joy to be found in the human imagination. In spite of the title, her “serious” work nevertheless resulted in a gratifying life, and she shares with viewers some of the projects that proved the most enjoyable. Though many compartmentalize their lives into “fun” and “career” designations, it is entirely possible to fuse the two together for the ultimate happiness experience.

6. Nancy Etkoff on the surprising science of happiness: While it’s relatively common knowledge that emotions directly impact human physiology, most popular discussions regarding happiness tend to focus more on the more abstract mental health components. Nancy Etkoff looks at the ever-elusive concept through the lens of cognitive science, exploring how the body conditions itself for negativity and oftentimes compromises its own satisfaction. Though despite biology and cognition’s hold, there are still a few things people can do to work around them.

7. Matthieu Ricard on the habits of happiness: Religion and spirituality are not necessarily everyone’s preferred route towards discovering happiness, though millions still find them an indispensible facet of their lives. Former biochemist Matthiew Ricard discovered his calling as a Buddhist monk, and the lecture pulls from this eclectic background to offer some personal thoughts on one can achieve personal satisfaction. He makes a case for clearer consciousness and self-awareness as the cornerstones of forging the best life possible.

8. Laura Trice suggests we all say thank you: Some days it seems as if the tenets of common courtesy have emulated elderly elephants and disappeared to perish in some secret, mysterious locale. This counselor earnestly believes that a simple resurgence in pleasantries such as “thank you” can make a massive difference in society as a whole. Both the speaker and the recipient walk away from those two seemingly small words feeling gratitude and harmony — feelings that can very easily carry on to others they encounter.

9. Stuart Brown says play is more than fun: It’s a thesis sure to satisfy pretty much everyone — taking time to relax and play around makes for one of the very best things anyone can do for his or her health and sanity. Juxtaposing animal behavior (including macaques and polar bears) with human habits, Stuart Brown illustrates how taking time to indulge the imagination opens up plenty of paths towards the ever-elusive happiness. Children especially benefit from such leisurely jaunts, as playing pretend games help strengthen the skills needed for success once the realities of adulthood descend.

10. Aimee Mullins: The opportunity of adversity: Aimee Mullins was born without shinbones, but in spite of this setback, she still managed to enjoy an eclectic, exciting life of sport and art. She cites the physical challenge as the single most motivating factor in her pursuit of modeling, activism, acting and participating in the Paralympics. Without it, she claims she never would have discovered such a profound satisfaction with her life — proving that sometimes the darkest moments result in the greatest personal triumphs.

11. Nick Bostrom on our biggest problems: Death, aging, “existential risk,” poor motivation and depression formulate the core of humanity’s greatest roadblocks towards happiness. Oxford’s Nick Bostrom finds hope and solace in transhumanist science and philosophy, explaining how many of the emerging technologies might very well reverse some of these serious ills. For viewers interested in amazing leaps in science and engineering, this lecture offers up plenty of intellectual questions to ponder.

12. Alex Tabarrok on how ideas trump crises: Plenty has been said about the role creativity, innovation and an active imagination help combat more negative emotions and mindsets. With the rise of a global economy and free markets, some believe that today’s economic climate — tempestuous as it is — actually provides some exhilarating challenges for those who derive enjoyment from such things. From a broader perspective, one can easily see how tragedies can slowly turn to victories with some hard work and even harder thinking.

13. Benjamin Wallace on the Price of Happiness: Many old proverbs and folktales warn against placing too much satisfaction in money and material goods, but that still doesn’t stop many people from trying. One particularly interesting study revealed that when the same wine first presented with an average price, then again with something higher, the latter garnered much more praise. Benjamin Wallace makes a compelling argument for pulling away from pursuing money and possessions as anything beyond means to caring for one’s needs.

14. His Holiness the Karmapa: The technology of the heart: For the more spiritually inclined, this lecture by one of Buddhism’s most revered clerics fuses religion and science in a manner that he claims maximizes happiness. No matter the myriad progresses made in the technical sector, he believes that true joy comes from peace of mind and body — though there exists plenty of pleasures to be found externally. And, of course, in forging loving and mindful connections with others.

15. Eve Ensler: Happiness in body and soul: Vagina Monologues scribe Eve Ensler found fulfillment in protecting women from abuse and marginalization. Both her writing and her activism brought happiness and peace to numerous victims, serving as an inspiration to those hoping to promote justice. She also believes that embracing one’s body and sexuality as something lovely rather than shameful will also help forge a positive personal pathway.

Niyama 2, Samtosha, Contentment

I write so much about longing and the un-contented parts of my life that it’s hard sometimes to acknowledge those areas of my existence that are perfectly or imperfectly just fine.  I often feel a sense of contentment after writing, especially in free writing in a journal—as if I’ve purged the “vritti” out of my system.  There is however, a sense of contentment that comes with acknowledgment of longing as a perennial aspect of the human condition. And a deeper contentment is possible through recognition of the longing as an expression of the Divine.

orchid (ckg photo)

II.42 samtosad anuttamah sukha-labhah

Samtosat:through or by contentment   Anuttamah:the strongest  Sukha: of happiness   Labhah: obtaining, gain

Contentment brings supreme happiness. (B.Bouanchaud)

The result of contentment is total happiness. (Desikachar)

From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness (BKS Iyengar)

When at peace and content with oneself and others (Santosha), supreme joy is celebrated. (Nischala Joy Devi)

This sutra can be linked with Sutra 1.13 : tatra sthitau yatno’bhyasah

Persevering practice is the effort to attain and maintain the state of mental peace.

In an earlier post, I wrote about practicing through emotions. Linking these two sutras, Patanjali says that the way to mental peace is through persevering practice and by practicing contentment, or mental peace, we’ll achieve happiness.

Santosha, or the practice of content-ment, is the ability to feel satisfied within the container of one’s immediate experience. (Donna Farhi)

Family gatherings often are times when I see sides of myself that I don’t like (a Living Mirror). They can be occasions of great dis-contentment for me. They are also the times of my greatest happiness. Trying to navigate them and remain centered is a worthwhile goal for anyone. Amy Weintraub in Yoga for Depression ties Santosha  with a quotation from Swami Kripalvanandji “My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.” She says that “both self-love and self-acceptance grow with practice.”

Is contentment the aim of yoga practice?

Is all suffering alleviated through contentment or do we look at the sufferings in our own lives in a contented fashion?

Does happiness imply a different vision of suffering?  Or can the two emotions exist simultaneously?

Is total happiness only possible through a practice of contentment?

If all life is suffering as the Buddha tells us, why should we bother trying to attain happiness?

Does contentment imply a turning away from the difficulties of life, an acceptance of poverty, cruelty, and violence in the world?

Won’t we be missing out on much of our human emotional range if we practice contentment?  Won’t we become zombies? Can one’s passions be ignited while one is content?

Are there any other effects or side effects of contentment?

Is it possible for contentment to exist on a greater scale, say in a community or in a nation?  Would this be the same as peace?

What is the relationship between contentment and peace?

Is there a relationship between contentment and the practice of svadhyaya (self-study)?

What is the relationship of asana practice and contentment?

The sutra tells us there is a direct relationship between contentment and personal happiness.  With contentment, one’s emotions are brought under an even keel, and the fluctuations of the mind are stilled.  Isn’t this the purpose of yoga?  I search for sukha in each pose, to feel joy while my body works on the edge of pain.  This has incredible implications for those suffering from emotional lability.  Can I learn to accept where I am at at any given moment? This is contentment and the sages say that by working on this, I will attain the supreme gift of happiness.

Patanjali tells us something profound, yet really simple: be content and you will be happy.  Want what you have and don’t want what you don’t have.

eat pray love

Though I stumbled upon Elizabeth Gilbert’s eat pray love by chance in the famous Portland bookstore, Powell’s City of Books, it had already been on the New York Times Bestseller list for over two years. I loved the story then and still do, so when I was asked to contribute to a discussion about meditation and the “India” chapter of the text at a local book group meeting, I was happy to comply and offer a bowl of my rice pudding for the dessert table. This book has already been reviewed and written about extensively, so I’ll simply add some quotations that were particularly noteworthy from the India chapter:

From section 38 ~ Why practice yoga?

Yoga, in Sanskrit, can be translated as “union.” It originally comes from the root word yuj, which means “to yoke,” to attach yourself to the task at hand with ox-like discipline. And the task at hand in Yoga is to find union—between mind and body, between the individual and her God, between our thoughts and the source of our thoughts, between teacher and student, and even between ourselves and our sometimes hard-to-bend neighbors.

From section 70 ~ regarding religion:

I think you are free to search for any metaphor whatsoever which will take you across the worldly divide whenever you need to be transported or comforted.

Your job, then, should you choose to accept it, is to keep searching for the metaphors, rituals and teachers that will help you move ever closer to divinity.

From section 68 ~ the effects of practice:

But it was pure, this love that I was feeling. It was godly. I looked around the darkened valley and I could see nothing that was not God. I felt so deeply, terribly happy. I thought to myself, “Whatever this feeling is — this is what I have been praying for. And this is also what I have been praying to.”

Here’s a wonderful section (64) where she comes to terms accepting her personality:

. . .if God wanted me to be a shy girl with thick, dark hair, He would have made me that way, but He didn’t. Useful, then, might be to accept how I was made and embody myself fully therein.

. . . that doesn’t mean I can’t take a serious look at y talking habits and alter some aspects for the better — working within my personality. Yes, I like talking, but perhaps I don’t have to curse so much, and perhaps I don’t always have to go for the cheap laugh, and maybe I don’t need to talk about myself quite so constantly.

And from section 58 on Prayer ~

Prayer is a relationship; half the job is mine. If I want transformation, but can’t even be bothered to articulate what, exactly, I’m aiming for, how will it ever occur?

From section 56 on types of meditation practice:

Now that I have my own personal issues with the very word detachment, having met spiritual seekers who already seem to live in a state of complete emotional disconnect from other human beings and who, when they talk about the sacred pursuit of detachment, make me want to shake them and holler, “Buddy, that is the last thing you need to practice!”

From section 49 – How to reach contentment:

Life, if you keep chasing it so hard, will drive you to death. Time — when pursued like a bandit—will behave like one; always remaining one county or one room ahead of you, changing its name and hair color to elude you, slipping out the back door of the motel just as you ‘re banging through the lobby with your newest search warrant, leaving only a burning cigarette in the ashtray to taunt you. At some point you have to stop because it won’t. You have to admit that you can’t catch it. That you’re not supposed to catch it. At some point, As Richard keeps telling me, you gotta let go and sit still and allow contentment to come to you.

If you’ve read the book, we’d love to hear the passages that spoke to you. If you haven’t read this funny, insightful, and moving memoir, here’s a link.

Practicing Gratitude, Head Balance

HURRICANE IKE hit and the gang in Houston remains without power. Dinners have become very interesting. And the nights are long. A great time for meditation! By the way, Laughing Yogini’s server is wrapped in plastic in a bathroom until power returns. If you have left a comment, it won’t be approved until nutopia is back on line. Try re-submitting to the yogini at laughingyogini dot com and I’ll see what I can do from here. Lots of lovingkindness meditations going out to those whose lives have been shattered by the storm.

We all have an opportunity to practice gratitude – name 5 aspects of your life that you are grateful for. Can be anything …here are a couple of mine: the smell of my shampoo, the delicious cup of coffee I enjoyed this morning, the sweetness of the breeze upon the skin of my face, being able to tie my shoes, a very cool student who smiled at me this morning. Do this every day, either in meditation or in your journal, and the practice will go far towards alleviating sadness and depression – those “I feel so sorry for myself” moments that come upon us even in the best of times.

chair head balance


My own many years-long struggle with head balance surfaced in a dream. Yogis need to constantly work against the inevitable frustration that comes from self-imposed goals and standards. I work at letting the frustration become the guru! Sitting in my heart, the frustration offers a lesson of acceptance, very tangibly. Surrendering into self-acceptance, my asana begins to take off. And if it doesn’t soar in a way that LOOKS better, it most certainly FEELS better, enabling access to the particular energy flow of the asana.

********************************************

Dream of a Perfect Head Balance

In the screened sunroom of this dream,

your long white hair and fierce sapphire eyes

shone like far-away stars. I was teaching you

how to stand on your head—

separation from your wife had left you

a quagmire of guilt, a swamp of suffering.

Night surrounded the room as it usually does

in my dreams, but we worked in a circle of light.

Kneeling in the middle of the reed rug

I explained how to press your ulnar points,

how to lift through the shoulders, how to reach

through the balls of the toes.

Though I have yet to do this in my life,

I demonstrated a perfect sirsasana

without any wall for support.

You nodded, attentive to every detail.

I assured you regular practice of head balance

would discipline your mind, broaden your spirit,

and warned heart trouble was a contraindication.

*********************************************

Then there are those poses that, well, you really can barely make an attempt. For me, those are the arm balances. I set up my props, and psyche myself by visualizing myself in the pose, and blam…the lift-off does not happen. At that point, it’s either a flop into frustration OR I can choose to enjoy the ride. In this case, the ride doesn’t go very far, but hey, it was fun falling on my face a few times. Afterwards, as I curl into Child Pose, the seeds of gratitude for even being able to attempt such the inversion, germinate, filling me with light. Laughing at how silly I must have looked trying fuels the spirit of exploration that’s so important for a healthy yoga practice. It breaks the chains of competition in class too because every student is trying to challenge individual, personal edges.

How do you deal with frustration in your daily practice or in group classes? Do your frustrations surface in your dreams? Have you written about them?

Have you found any satisfaction from practicing gratitude?

How does this relate to contentment …to peace…to compassion…in your life?

contentment sutra

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of contentment. It’s an old topic, one the ancient Indian sage Patanjali included in his Yoga Sutras.

YOGA SUTRA STUDY

(trans. Bouanchaud)
II.42 samtosad anuttamah sukha-labhah

Samtosat: through or by contentment

Anuttamah: the strongest

Sukha: of happiness

Labhah: obtaining, gain
Contentment brings supreme happiness. (B.Bouanchaud)
From contentment one gains unsurpassed joy. (D. Brooks)
The result of contentment is total happiness. (Desikachar)
From contentment and benevolence of consciousness comes supreme happiness (BKS Iyengar)

Is contentment the aim of yoga practice?

Is all suffering alleviated through contentment or do we look at the sufferings in our own lives in a contented fashion?

Does happiness imply a different vision of suffering? Or can the two emotions exist simultaneously?

Is total happiness only possible through a practice of contentment?

If all life is suffering as the Buddha tells us, why should we bother trying to attain happiness?
Does contentment imply a turning away from the difficulties of life, an acceptance of poverty, cruelty, and violence in the world?

Won’t we be missing out on much of our human emotional range if we practice contentment? Won’t we become zombies? Can one’s passions be ignited while one is content?

Are there any other effects or side effects of contentment?

Is it possible for contentment to exist on a greater scale, say in a community or in a nation? Would this be the same as peace? What is the relationship between contentment and peace?

Is there a relationship between contentment and the practice of svadhyaya (self-study)?

What is the relationship of asana practice and contentment?

wet leaf (Zoar Valley NY - MPG))

The sutra tells us there is a direct relationship between contentment and personal happiness. With contentment, one’s emotions are brought under an even keel, the fluctuations of the mind are stilled. Isn’t this the purpose of yoga?

I try to search for sukha in each pose, to achieve joy while my body works on the edge of pain. This has incredible implications when suffering from emotional lability. We learn to accept where we are at at any given moment; this is contentment and the sages tell us that if we work on this, we will attain the supreme gift of happiness.
Patanjali tells us something profound, yet really simple: be content and you will be happy. Want what you have and don’t want what you don’t have. A recipe for happiness that has one ingredient: contentment.