In traditions around the world, we celebrate the end of each year and the beginning of a new one: from the Jewish observation of Rosh Hashanah to the secular New Year’s Eve, or from the Lunar Festival for the Chinese New Year to the Persian Nowruz holiday. Without doubt, these holidays are a highlight of the year — they are a time of renewal and joy. But they also summon a spirit of self-evaluation. I would like to discuss the ways in which we become entangled with an «evaluation mode;» an analysis of our performance over the past year. This mode is created by an attachment to calendar measurements. Such measurements usually aid us to make our lives easier and organized, but an attachment to them can stir up emotions and raise our anxiety level. We even sarcastically joke about surviving these new year seasons.
The truth is that most of us, at a new year, become immersed within mixed feelings related to our perceptions of «success» and the passage of time. While nothing will be particularly different from one holiday season to the next, we end up critically evaluating ourselves at these moments: we ask whether we have done everything properly, have we thrived during the past year, were we enough. Now, in my understanding, there are two forces playing behind these inquires: the force of Ahankara, or our ego, and the force of Atman, or our inner presence, most commonly known as the soul.
The force of ego says: «I want to be better . . . than you, than that, than them, than anything else.» It is based on comparison and therefore inevitably brings disappointment. In this way, we can never be fully satisfied, regardless of how successful we are.
At the same time, the force of Atman, or the soul, whispers: “I want to be better» . . . just that. Subtle difference, but one that is very significant. Within all of us, It is intrinsic to be and do better. Better parents, better sons, better daughters, better siblings, better lovers, better friends, better workers, better human beings. This is the force of Atman, in which, according to Yoga, the seeds of memory and desire sleep. But here we also feel some disappointment. Because we feel the constant need to refine ourselves. In that evolution, we fail over and over again.
There is a remedy for this back and forth dilemma, and it is called “Santosha”, the second of the five Niyamas or rules of personal behavior. Santosha means contentment, satisfaction. Alistair Shearer described it as: “The equanimity that sees things as they are, undistorted by expectations, need or fear”. Cultivating Santosha then would bring great emphasis towards equanimity, a better way to develop observation instead of evaluation. Because when we observe, we remove ourselves from intellectual judgments that are, in the end, a construction of our mind. The spirit of contentment also refreshes the radiant expansion of our soul in its beautiful journey to light.
The mantra «Equanimity,» and the question: How can I have the most beautiful day?, can help us to delve into our state of being, observe it, and bring some contentment. I encourage you to make it a daily practice. Ask yourself this question every day and repeat the mantra — these practices will center your heart.
Additionally, I encourage you to regularly repeat the following affirmations:
- I embrace contentment with my heart as a pure and unbounded state.
- I cultivate Santosha letting go of all my expectations.
- I embrace contentment as I face my fears and release them.
- I cultivate Santosha accepting this moment as it is.
- I embrace contentment as my supportive life force.
Every morning, as we wake up, we have the opportunity to choose between Santosha or Disappointment. As with all of the Yamas and Niyamas, contentment has to be cultivated with patience, humility, discipline, and joy. Accept this moment as it is and dream of a future founded on Santosha.
I leave you with a beautiful poem from Rumi:
The friend is your eye, keep it pure
do not stir the dust with the broom of your tongue.
Withdraw from strangers not from friends
a fur coat is for winter not for summer.
When the ego joins another ego
darkness increases and the path is lost
When intelligence joins with another
the light increases and the path becomes clear.
I wish you a beautiful day.