What is Santosha? Meaning and Practice

Santosha es uno de los niyamas y se traduce por contentamiento interior.

Santosha is a Sanskrit word that can be translated as“contentment“,“satisfaction” or “acceptance“. It is one of the central concepts within yoga philosophy, specifically mentioned as one of the Niyamas in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

The Niyamas are a series of personal observances that describe how one should relate to oneself in order to live a spiritually connected, moral and fulfilling life.

so what is Santosha? It is the cultivation of an attitude of contentment and acceptance, regardless of external circumstances. It does not mean resignation or complacency, but rather a deep understanding that happiness and inner peace are not derived from external conditions, but from the inner state of mind. It is the realization that fulfillment comes from within ourselves and cannot be achieved outside of ourselves.

The true meaning of Santosha in Yoga

At first glance, Santosha could be misunderstood as complacency or lack of ambition. But, in reality, it refers to a kind of contentment that arises from within and is not conditioned by external factors. It is a joyful acceptance of life as it presents itself, without excessive dependence on circumstances for our happiness and well-being.

Contentment is not about resigning ourselves to mediocrity or not striving toward meaningful goals. Instead, it is about cultivating an inner state that is not shaken by the inevitable ups and downs of life. It is the realization that while we cannot always control what happens around us, we can choose how we respond to it.

How can we cultivate Santosha?

La práctica o cultivo de Santosha o contentamiento interior.

Before embarking on the journey to contentment, it is essential to understand the intrinsic nature of human desire. Since its origins, humans have longed for more: more food, more money, more pleasure, more security, more comfort, more recognition.

These desires are not wrong in themselves; they have helped us in our survival and evolution. However, there is a basic ignorance that is present in almost all people. There is nothing on the outside that can make us feel fulfilled and the constant striving to satisfy our desires only leads to chronic dissatisfaction.

Desire, in its many forms, is a fundamental part of the human experience. It is what drives us to grow, to learn and to create. However, when left unchecked, desire can become an endless source of dissatisfaction. In the society in which we live, we are often bombarded with messages that tell us that we are not enough, that we need more to be happy. This is the antithesis of Santosha.

Santosha asks us to examine the nature and source of our desires. Do they arise from a place of lack, driven by external comparisons or societal expectations? Or do they come from a genuine desire for growth and authenticity? By analyzing the nature of our desires, we can learn to orient them in a way that complements, rather than compromises our inner contentment.

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving Santosha is the “when…then” mentality: “When I get a better job, then I’ll be happy,”“When I lose weight, then I’ll feel good about myself,” “When I buy that house, then I’ll be satisfied.” This mentality postpones our happiness and contentment to an uncertain and often unattainable future. By adhering to this way of thinking, we condemn ourselves to an eternal race towards a horizon that always seems to get farther and farther away.

how can we then reach this longed-for state of fulfillment, of feeling good about ourselves? As with everything in life, there is no magic formula to achieve it. Each person has to make an individual effort and put the necessary means to achieve inner contentment. Fortunately, in the different Eastern traditions, including yoga, we find a series of practices that can help us to achieve greater satisfaction.

Taking perspective

One of the keys to cultivating Santosha is to develop the ability to see life from a broader perspective. Often, we get caught up in the details and daily concerns. Problems and challenges that seem overwhelming at one time may, with time and distance, seem insignificant or even become valuable life lessons.

By adopting a broader perspective, we begin to see life not as a series of isolated events, but as an interconnected flow of experiences. This perspective allows us to find contentment even in the midst of adversity, recognizing that each experience, good or bad, is part of a larger journey.

The importance of the present

Our mind tends to wander to the past or the future. We are always remembering or anticipating, forgetting the power and beauty of the now. By focusing on the present, we begin to see and appreciate the small blessings and moments of joy that we often overlook. Meditation is the fundamental tool for connecting with life and achieving the experience of the present moment.

Detachment from results

While it is natural to have goals and aspirations, becoming rigidly attached to specific outcomes can be a source of suffering. Practicing detachment does not mean not striving or not caring, but recognizing that there are many factors beyond our control. Instead of measuring our worth or happiness based on specific outcomes, we find contentment in the effort itself and in the journey.

Cultivating gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most powerful and undervalued practices available for achieving fulfillment. By adopting a gratitude perspective, we begin to focus on what we have rather than what we lack. Keeping a gratitude journal, where we write down things we are grateful for each day, can be a transformative exercise.

Avoid comparison traps

We live in an age of unprecedented interconnectedness, where it is easy to fall into the trap of constantly comparing ourselves to others. These comparisons, often fueled by ideal representations on social media, can erode our sense of contentment. It is vital to remember that each person has his or her own path, with his or her own challenges and triumphs. Practicing self-compassion and remembering that we are much more than external appearances is fundamental to the cultivation of Santosha.

Recognizing impermanence

Everything in life is temporary. Recognizing this fundamental truth, sometimes painful to look at, can help us to appreciate the present more and find fulfillment in it, even in the midst of uncertainty. When we understand that everything changes, we begin to let go of the desire for things to be a certain way and embrace the natural flow of life, learning to flow with it.

Surround yourself with positive influences

The environment we find ourselves in and the people we interact with significantly influence our state of mind. Surrounding ourselves with people and environments that foster positivity, acceptance and peace can be very beneficial in developing spiritually and achieving wholeness.

Selfless service

Offering our time and skills without expecting anything in return, known as“seva” in Sanskrit, can be a very powerful practice. When we help others, we connect with something greater than ourselves and find deep satisfaction in simple acts of kindness.

Revisit and redefine success

Revisiting our definitions of success and failure can be a great first step on our path to fulfillment. Instead of external measures such as wealth, position or recognition, consider internal factors such as peace, contentment and personal growth. This redefinition can be liberating and help us live with greater purpose.

Celebrate small moments

Finally, cultivating Santosha involves celebrating and finding joy in the small moments. Whether it is the warmth of the sun on the skin, a good conversation with a friend, or the taste of a delicious meal, recognizing and delighting in these instants brings us closer to true contentment.

What are the benefits of Santosha?

On the spiritual path it is necessary to forget about “benefits“. Continued practice and effort bring rewards, but often we will also be forced to face uncomfortable aspects of our life before we get any benefits.

The beauty of Santosha is not only the peace and happiness it brings into our lives, but also how it transforms our relationship with the world around us. When we put the means to cultivate it, we begin to see abundance instead of scarcity. We begin to appreciate the small joys, the fleeting moments of beauty and connection to life.

Like many of the teachings of yoga, Santosha is not something that is“achieved” and then forgotten. It is an ongoing practice, a constant reminder to return to the present moment and find contentment in it. In a world that often values accumulation, success and the constant search for more experiences and pleasures, Santosha serves as a compass that points us toward a deeper and more lasting sense of satisfaction or fulfillment.

Remember that the practice of Santosha does not mean that you will never experience sadness, anger or disappointment. These are natural human emotions and have their place in our experience. However, when we begin to understand Santosha we realize that these emotions can be seen and felt without allowing them to define or consume our existence.

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