Discovering Santosha

20190407_073914I’ve been awake for many hours, thanks to the end of daylight savings. Fortunatley, it’s a stunning day in Melbourne so I’ve made the most of it, starting with a walk around the bay.

After breakfast I went to a Yin yoga class, my absolute favourite. Yin is a slow practice that holds postures for longer than other styles, resulting in a lovely stretch and release of all the niggles that blight my body. This class is how I give back to my body after a demanding week of training and it’s good for my mind too.

The teacher in today’s class spoke about Santosha, which is Sanskrit for “completely content or satisfied, accepting and comfortable”. I had to look that up – I’m not fluent in Sanskrit, but Savasana is my favourite word in case you’re wondering. This word Santosha got me thinking about how often I’ve felt completely content and satisfied. Completely; that’s a big qualifier.

It’s an unfortunate trick of biology that our brains focus first on the negative rather than the positive. This goes back to basic survival, when humans needed to constantly assess what life-threatening conditions existed and be ready to mitigate or run away. Even though human society is incredibly sophisticated now, our primitive brains have not kept pace from an evolutionary perspective. That’s why we tend to naturally think about what we don’t have, rather than what we do.

Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy”, which I genuinely believe is true. Sure, not owning a mansion with a butler, chef and pool boy isn’t going to put my life at risk, but my primitive brain automatically goes to those things when I see the huge beachfront houses near where I live. Those small moments can create tiny grains of dissatisfaction which, if left unchecked, can become major issues for some. We all know people like that. They’re hard work and rarely happy. They love complaining. We all have ups and downs, but I do try to avoid those who are consistently down.

Santosha is particularly relevant for me right now because I’m putting pressure on myself to bring in an income. That’s stressful and can lead into a negative spiral. So, now more than ever, I am trying to be a glass half full person, rather than glass half empty. Some days, I’m just thankful for having a glass at all.

As a side note, there has been research to show that meditation and mindfulness can help switch off the primitive brain and instead engage the whole brain to holistically consider a situation and ensure the response is thoughtful.  Cool, huh?


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