february spotlight on: santosha (contentment)

Here we are, still less than halfway through what a dear friend of mine calls “The Xanax Months”: January, February, and March. In most places around the country, this can be a tough month. We no longer have the sparkling distractions of the holidays to keep us warm. Our New Years’ resolutions are looking bleak, or simply unattainable, and we give them up. The weather chills our bones, and what we wouldn’t give to see a tiny bud of spring struggle up through the frozen earth. And when we realize that spring is still so far away, the gray skies darken our hearts and minds.

This is a time of hibernation, which all too often leads to isolation. When my mind is left alone for too long, it gets a little toxic. I begin to have imaginary conversations, always with people that are in need of reconciliation, or I wallow in relationships darkened by conflict. I don’t think this is unique, just reality. Call it February Syndrome.

I have to work extra hard to practice Santosha (contentment) when it would be so much easier to ignore it completely. Sometimes contentment comes to mind as a little cartoon guy, standing and grinning dumbly, blind to the world around him swirling in chaos and disaster. “Who cares, I’ve got Santosha!” I find that little guy mildly annoying.

Contentment isn’t complacency or ignorance. It’s an ease of the heart. How do we find an easy heart? We can practice yoga and meditation. We can take solace in the little things that bring inexplicable happiness. Watch the Superbowl and eat chips with friends. Get a massage. On Valentine’s Day, you can celebrate your beloved; if you’re single, you can celebrate your independence. Practicing Santosha shows an emotional maturity and affirms our place in the universe. Swami Shraddhananda offers it beautifully: “[W]hen we consciously practice Santosha, we spend more time in contentment and less time in agitation, more time in conscious awareness, and less time in the emotionality of anger or depression…there is elegance to how it shapes power in lives and allows for greater service to the world.”

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