It’s that time of year again! As the holidays make their festive appearance, I’ve been thinking a lot about joy. How do we find it? How do we invite it into our lives? How do we maintain it?
The yogic tradition has a series of ethical codes that help us to develop positive relationships with ourselves, one of which is to cultivate contentment. Contentment is not something you can force and nobody can find it for you. It comes from the inside.
Contentment can be tricky. We spend so much time trying to make ourselves happy, but ironically, happiness rises in our hearts when we’re not searching for it. As I learn to surrender into the present moment, joy begins to spontaneously arise. I stop placing expectations on myself for where I think I should be, and begin BEING with what is right in front of me. I stop comparing my life to others, and I begin to appreciate what I already have. When I allow contentment to surface, rather than race all over town in search of it, I’m happier.
It is similar to forcing the creative process … not possible. But, when I allow the creative process to gracefully unfold, it blossoms. In my practice of allowing contentment to surface, I have discovered that the creative process is a wonderful teacher. I began painting again this year (newest piece below) after a long art-making hiatus and it has taught me so much about inviting joy into my life. The less I push, the more easeful and happy I become. As someone who is inclined to push harder to achieve more, this is easier said than done!
One approach is to practice appreciating the present moment without grasping to a particular result or expectation. In yoga, this is called non-attachment.
In my yoga practice on the mat, this means moving and breathing in a way that serves my present mind-body state, rather than forcing myself into a pose.
In my painting, the process of putting paint on the canvas supersedes the final piece. The more I allow the painting to develop without worrying about what it will look like, the richer the experience becomes.
In my professional life, it means appreciating the work that I get to do and the people I get to spend time with, rather than putting all of my attention on the bottom line.
Non-attachment does not mean living your life on autopilot. Rather, it’s relying on your internal state of mind to bring you happiness, rather than grasping to external circumstances. It is realizing that contentment is already a part of you; it’s your true nature. This is not to say that the end result is not of value. I care deeply about progressing in my yoga practice, creating beautiful artwork, and the financial health of my business. But by practicing contentment and appreciating the process, my life is sweeter.
We’re all a part of the human condition and life can be overwhelming, confusing, and downright unfair. It’s in these exact moments where the practice of contentment is so critical. The past year has dealt me several challenges that have tested my ability to remain steady in the face of uncertainty and discomfort. As I ride the waves of life, the practice of bringing my attention back to the present moment, without judgment, has been the most helpful in cultivating contentment in the face of sadness and fear.
The upcoming New Year is an opportunity to explore happiness in your own life. Have you invited the ease and joy of contentment into your life? Is there something in your life that you can surrender into without grasping to a specific outcome? Can you resist the urge to force happiness, and allow it to effortlessly surface?
Our winter presentation series, A Mindful New Year, will guide you through four key elements of discovering contentment in your life. You’ll learn about yoga-based intention setting strategies, mindful eating and movement, and how to cultivate sustainable healthy habits that last. We hope you’ll join us in discovering a happier, healthier YOU.
May the holiday season bring you joy,