As we ground and prepare for our transformation through yoga in our midlife, it is always good to have balance. Balance is one of the most skilful capacities we hope to cultivate in yoga, and it is crucial for grounding, letting go and expansion / manifestation.
Yoga philosophy is great when it comes to finding that middle ground to between inertia and being inert when it comes to our midlife awakening through yoga.
Santosha / Contentment.
From the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, we have second rung of the Eight-Limb Yoga Path – or Ashtanga Yoga, namely the niyamas. The niyamas guide us towards a more positive and skilful relationship with ourselves. Only once we form a good connection to ourselves, we may in turn form positive and enduring relationships with others.
One of the elements or capacities of the niyamas is santosha – or ‘contentment’. Being content actually is far more difficult than we may think. Even in our everyday life, we have thoughts about ‘how the day may be better if…’ and in life, ‘how we may be happier if…’ It’s bound to pop up, at least now and then – we are after all only human.
By contentment, the highest happiness is attained.The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sutra II.42
Contentment in this context means having that sense of serenity of having enough based on what we have / are, rather than what he have not / are not. True contentment does not make us yearn for more or what we don’t have: rather, it leads to happiness and bliss. Santosha is unconditional happiness, a state that allows us to find contentment in any situation.
Of course, we aren’t meant to just sit back passively and take no action in our life. The capacity of santosha means accepting and appreciating all we have (the good and the bad) and all we are, and moving forward from there.
To help us embrace the capacity of santosha (it really is in all of us), the best method for those new to the practice is gratitude. Gratitude really means being grateful for all we have, all we have experienced, and all we are – the good and the bad. Can we see the good in the bad things we have experienced? The proverbial silver lining in the cloud?
It really is a bit like Pollyanna, which makes it sometimes artificial, frustrating and also feeling phoney. But sometimes, when the worst has happened, and we search for something to be grateful for, we may actually find a glimmer of peace.
Remember, whatever happens, it’s never ‘bad’. There is always something we can learn.
Santosha and gratitude practice helps us balance our lives when we feel driven to always take action (or non-action), or always consuming. When is enough? There needs to be a balance.
Gratitude practice for santosha / contentment is best practice during your normal days (rather than waiting for a catastrophe to happen, then seek for something to be grateful for).
Gratitude practice is scientifically proven to help us rewire the brain and be happier. To learn more about Gratitude Practice, get the Mindful Morning Mini Course below!
Learn gratitude practice and more!
The Mindful Mornings Mini Course helps to set up your day for calm, a crucial step towards a more fulfilling and peaceful midlife.
To find balance, we can have guidance through the four immeasurable virtues, as described by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras. In relation to these four qualities, of which equanimity is included, Yogapedia states:
Upeksha is a Sanskrit term that describes non-attachment, a balanced mind and tolerance. In Buddhism, it is one of the four elements of true love, together with loving-kindness (maitri), compassion (karuna) and joy (mudita). In yoga, these four elements are seen as different features of universal kindness and are considered the four qualities of a jivanmukta, or one who has achieved liberation (moksha). Abiding in upeksha means inhabiting the mental state of non-self and non-possessive loveYogapedia
In the Yoga Sutras 1.33, Patanjali discusses four kinds of ‘locks’ in the world: sukha (happy people), dukha (unhappy people), punya (the virtuous), and apunya (the not-so-virtuous). At any time, anyone (including us) have the capacity to be ‘locked’ in one of these four capacities.
Patanjali then describes four keys we can use when we experience one of these locks, or when we come across someone experiencing one of these locks mentioned above. They are maitri (friendliness), karuna (compassion), mudita (delight), and upeksha (equanimity).
- When you encounter a happy person, greet happiness with the capacity of maitri / friendliness so we can be joyful in the happiness of the other, rather than be consumed by envy attitude, which may affect the other person and your own wellbeing.
- When you encounter an unhappy person, greet unhappiness with the capacity of karuna / compassion. Compassion is key when experiencing unhappiness, think of the times when we were unhappy. Judgment or criticism hardly supports anyone during that ‘lock’, and we all experience unhappiness.
- When you encounter a virtuous person, greet virtue with the capacity of mudita / delight. Take delight in the other’s virtue, perhaps endevouring to cultivate virtue within ourselves as well.
- When you encounter a non-virtuous person, greet non-virtue with the capacity of upeksha / equanimity. There will always be wickedness or non-virtue in the world; there will always be people who won’t support us or be against our decisions. Just greet this with a sense of equanimity. Note: this doesn’t mean we are meant to turn a blind eye to harm to others, animals, the environment or to crime – the question is can we take action with an equanimous heart.
Practising these principles of universal kindness requires time, so be patient with yourself. Balance arrives from these principles in little glimmers, and maybe in larger glimmers as time goes by. Remember when we balance all these we reach enlightenment, so don’t feel frustrated if you don’t “get it” or it feels “too hard”. It won’t always be that way.
Connecting to the Earth element / Prthvi.
We have been exploring grounding recently, and related to this is connecting to the Earth element within ourselves to help find balance, stability and support. In Ayurveda and yoga, there are five elements we focus on, in a philosophical sense.
Earth or Prthvi represents the solid state of matter, such as our bones, skin, teeth, hair, nails, all solidity of our physical self represents the Earth element. That is why grounding practises usually draws our initial awareness to something sold and present, such as our body.
The Earth element represents all that supports us, gives us stability, gives us balance – so when we find ourselves heady and zooming off, it is good to have our awareness on these Earth elements embodied in us. It is a quick and easy practice, much like the feet awareness guided meditation below.
Guided Meditation for Grounding.
Grounding in yoga means to draw ourselves to the present, allowing thoughts of the future and past to dissipate. The best way to do this is to have focus on something which is always present, such as our feet. This meditation guides us to have feet awareness. Constant practice of feet awareness may help us to ground while we are away from meditation practice, as we bring awareness to our feet when something unskilful grips us.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.Albert Einstein.
So now you know a few ways through yoga wisdom to help yourself find balance as you seek a change or transformation in yourself. Do contact me if I can help you more in your transformation.
My Happy Client!
Before practising yoga, my life was fairly active. I used to go for walks. The only problem was the pain in my knee, especially when I walk up stairs. I knew I had to go through the pain, as I had kneecap replacement surgery a few years ago.
Practising with Daniel, I found that the pain is still there but not that bad. I know it will improve as I go on exercising. It will take time but definitely I feel better now.
1:1 Yoga Mentorship Client (for three sessions only during her short vacation in Malaysia)