I have to start this post by saying that I love when I learn something new that totally changes my perspective — and it’s usually the simplest ideas that do the trick.
I speak from the heart when I say that while I preach about Living Kindly, I am often the first person that needs to take my own advice. Stick with me on this as you might relate. Ever catch yourself thinking about what you want to change, even if it’s a positive change? Or constantly setting new goals and thinking about the future? That’s me. My mind moves a mile a minute focusing on personal improvements and changes, that I’m often not satisfied in the moment.
However, that all changed after a 5-day yoga & meditation retreat I attended this past April. Each morning before diving into our yoga practice, we’d sit in a heated room on our mats and have a discussion led by yogi and author, Baron Baptiste. While every talk seemed to open my mind to new ideas, Day 3 was by far my favorite. That’s when Baron introduced us to the idea of Santosha.
He said, “Santosha means to always be content and yet unsatisfied.” The idea that I could be content and unsatisfied at the same time felt very foreign, yet powerful. While on our mats, he was referring to not holding attachment to the fullest expression of a pose, or feeling as if we need to get to that expression. We could be content with whatever pose we were in, even if it wasn’t right.
But off the mat and in my everyday life, Santosha meant so much more. You see, I was used to letting my setbacks motivate me, rather than spend time being content about where I was in the moment. Whether I wanted to be faster on my bike, perform better at work, or — to be blunt — lose more weight, my happiness often hinged on achieving certain goals. I knew that I’d benefit from practicing Santosha and allowing myself to be content in those moments that I felt unsatisfied and wanted more for myself.
Let me tell you, this practice has been a game-changer of epic proportions. I’m still setting goals on a daily basis and thinking 10 steps ahead about where I’d like to go and milestones I want to hit, but by allowing myself to be comfortable in these moments as-is, the weight on my shoulders is gone. It no longer feels like I’ll be content once I hit these goals — it’s happening now. While I’ll always feel like a work-in-progress (and I should if I want to constantly evolve), in the simplest of terms, Santosha helps me find comfort in the discomfort.
Here are the two areas where practicing this idea has helped the most:
Fitness: If you’ve read my column before, you know how important cycling is to me and how much time I’ve spent working to get faster and stronger. I’ve had quite a few days on the bike where my enjoyment was hindered because I couldn’t keep up or push harder. While my glass-half-full attitude always finds a silver lining, it was a struggle to not compare myself to others I rode with, or immediately think about the things I should be better at on the bike. I wish my tactic to pull myself out of this sounded cooler than what I’m about to tell you, but here it goes: I literally say the word Santosha (to myself) when I’m starting to go down that path. Thankfully, I have years of practice knowing my triggers, which usually sound something like this: “Kelly! Ugh! See, if you would’ve just done (more intervals)! Now you need to start doing (a really hard workout)! OK, no more (donuts)!” I have to shut myself up — how weird is that?
The second I say Santosha, these feelings don’t go away — but I now allow myself to just be in the moment. And be ok with wherever I am. It’s as if I have two positive voices sitting on each shoulder while I’m riding. One is telling me I need to set goals to get better and the other one whispers, “FYI, you’re good as you are right now.”
Sounds silly. . . but it works for me.
Personal Life: At the beginning of 2016, I talked a little about reading Marie Kondo’s book (you know, she talks about decluttering and tidying up). Well, I finally dived straight in to the process and I will admit — it’s a process. It’s an even bigger process as I have a huge wardrobe to sift through from my LA Publicist days and an obscene amount of makeup products from my days working as a makeup artist. I can envision the end goal: minimalist aesthetic, quality items, and only the key staples that make me happy. But let me tell you, the process has been daunting and I’ve had to work very hard at being content in the moment. Knowing it’s going to be a process (Kondo says that it can take up to 6 months) has actually provided a bit of solace. In the past, I couldn’t imagine spending time with friends knowing I had a disorganized messy closet that required my attention. And I certainly wouldn’t have carved out time to go for a bike ride or read a book knowing that I had 5 years of dresses to rifle through. Practicing Santosha and finding happiness in that middle ground — the area between contentment and satisfaction — has made me realize that changes don’t always happen immediately.
Isn’t it crazy that one word can carry so much power and make you look at your life differently? For me, life is so much more enjoyable that even when everything else is proverbial mess, I can allow myself to be content.