The Niyamas: Santosha - Contentment
by Wessel Paternotte
The Niyamas: SANTOSHA - Contentment
This month we focus on the practice of Santosha, developing contentment and equanimity of mind. I believe the first time I heard the word equanimity was during my first vipassana retreat. The teacher, S.N. Goenka, was speaking about it a lot. He told me that I should keep a calm, content and equanimous mind, no matter what the circumstances may be. The circumstance was that I found myself in a 10-day retreat, meditating for 10 hours each day. And after the third day, my back started to ache. The pain and discomfort was getting more intense by the minute and I can tell you my mind was not equanimous. Rather the opposite.
My first reaction to the pain was to fix it, to eliminate this unwanted feeling, by changing my posture or using another pillow. No matter what I did, the pain came back. I started to reject the whole situation, thinking this meditation retreat was not relaxing at all! During the discourses, another word that the teacher frequented was anicca, which I later learned is the Sanskrit word for impermanence. With a typical Indian accent, Goenka spoke about feelings and sensations that were arising and passing away. Coming and going. Like waves. Well, I had a lot of feelings and sensations, and they were very unpleasant. Interestingly, when I started to see this back pain as a temporal thing – it actually began to melt away. And a little while later, it was completely gone. I kid you not.
Later in this vipassana retreat, I gained insight into the true nature of reality. I was becoming aware that I am not my pain. I am not my body. And I realized I am not even my thoughts. Even though I have a body, and I have thoughts and feelings, I could now see them passing by, like clouds in the sky. Once this started to settle a little, I had a moment of awakening. I was completely one with everyone else in the room. Connected to all beings. One with nature. One with God. I became the sky. A deep feeling of gratitude came over me. And for the remaining days I practiced with a feeling of contentment, and equanimity. This is my most profound experience of Santosha.
The vipassana course is a beautiful method of self-reflection that I can highly recommend. I learned to deal with changes in life in a much better way. Bad things still happen, but it affects me less because I know that this too, shall pass. In fact, I am learning to love what is. It’s life unfolding. And I love life. With all the good stuff, and all the bad in it. The shadow loses its hold and I become free again. More often I find myself in a state of inner contentment. Inner peace. This is the practice of Santosha.
May Santosha be with you this month, and may your soul shine bright like a diamond.
Find out more about Vipassana courses as tought by S.N. Goenka on www.dhamma.org
Wessel, born and raised in Amsterdam, found peace in the hustle and bustle of the big city. From childhood on, he was interested in spirituality and martial arts. After years of practice and study, be became Reiki Master in 2006. That same year he opened Delight Studio, a space for healing, meditation and yoga.