My natural inclination is to hit the ground running the moment my alarm goes off. And sometimes, I have to– teaching 6 am yoga classes means arriving at Westport Yoga KC at an indecent hour.
But what I really crave is A Slow Morning. A morning that I can unwrap slowly, deliberately, with care and attention.
Years ago I was inspired by this quote from Thich Nhat Hanh and have held it close to my heart since. He says,
“Every twenty-four hours is a tremendous gift to us. So we should all learn to live in a way that makes joy possible.”
I’ve found that if I unwrap my morning slowly, like a precious gift, the possibility for joy, fulfillment and contentment increases exponentially. If I cherish my first stretch, spend an extra moment cuddling with Russell Clive, meditate first thing and drink my coffee slowly (from a real mug, not a travel mug), I start my day feeling tremendous contentment. I am ready to receive whatever the day has to offer.
It doesn’t mean that I’ll be HAPPY! every single moment of the rest of the day. Santosha, or contentment, is a difficult attitude to maintain. Because, let’s face it: happiness doesn’t always present itself tied up with a pretty ribbon every day. Some days go terribly wrong (hello, influenza B) and I’m frustrated, stressed and suffering.
Santosha is a possibility when I relinquish my expectations and choose instead to be grateful that I even get to open the gift of the day, regardless of what’s under the wrapping.
One way I increase my possibility for santosha is starting every morning in meditation– setting my intention that I’ll be open to receive. Whatever the day brings, I strive to stay open, grateful and aware of the preciousness of this day.
I hope this audio guided meditation helps you open to the possibilities of joy and santosha today.
“Open to Receive”
“Every twenty-four hours is a tremendous gift to us. So we should all learn to live in a way that makes joy possible.” -TNH
“Contentment is the fragrance of present moment awareness. Contentment reflects a state of being in which your peace is independent of situations and circumstances happening around you.” – Deepak Chopra
I have 5 rain coats, approximately 63 sweatshirts, 3 puffy vests and a thousand reasons to stop buying more clothes. And still, I open my closetand think: “I need a new jacket.”
What is it about being a human that makes us think, “I need more”?
Is it that we are truly lacking? Or just that contentment with what we have right in front of us is dulled in comparison to our feverish desire for more?
It’s not easy to feel contentment: it’s easier to believe that happiness will magically descend upon my life when I’m wildly successful/ can do a handstand perfectly/ lose the last five winter pounds/ have a new jacket/ the sun is shining every day/ yoga classes are filled to the brim.
I do it constantly, this ‘wanting more’ business. I want more students, more money, more hobbies, more free time, more Girl Scout Cookies, more puppies, more flowers for my front porch, more friends, more tattoos, more sunny days, more Instagram likes.
And yet, the wisdom of yoga tells me that I will still not feel content even if I have all these things. Ridiculously, I’ll still want more. The practice and philosophy of Yoga teaches me that true contentment, called santosha, is independent of external factors and must derive its potency from my internal state. Not what I have, but what I am.
Contentment is inaccessible if I am living in the future, hoping for life to be perfect one day when I have more of everything I don’t really need.
Santosha requires me to examine all the reasons and all the ways I look for fulfillment, validation, praise and worth outside of myself. And instead, look for contentment in the exact present moment, with exactly what I have and exactly who I am.
One thing that helps me find contentment is to meditate on the gift of the Present Moment with this Guided Meditation:
Present Moment, Wonderful Moment
What does contentment (santosha) mean to you? How do you find it in the present moment? I’m looking forward to your answers,
Did you know it takes 90 seconds for you to process the emotional onslaught of a strong emotion? Strong emotions are, well, really overwhelming, and probably unavoidable. These are the emotions that hit you like a giant tsunami and leave wreckage in their wake.
These uncomfortable emotions manifest from a surge of hormones let loose by the limbic system that turn the sympathetic nervous system on high. This ancient part of our brain is responsible for emotions, making memories and reacting to instinct.
Particularly strong emotions feel like they will last FOREVER– anger, fear, anxiety, frustration– they don’t just feel like a passing storm, they feel like they may drown you.
But guess what? Your body deals with the physical hormonal imbalance of the strong emotion, washing it away into residual memory in 90 seconds.
This gives a whole new power to the act of sitting, breathing through our emotions.
If I can manage to stay with my breath for 90 seconds, then the emotion will subside. Sure, just like a stormy sea, another wave may roll up on me in a few minutes. But that wave will resolve itself too, in a mere 90 seconds.
Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön, author of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult writes this:
“The problem is that we have so little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings. You try everything to escape them, but if, somehow, you could stay present and touch the rawness of the experience, then you can learn something. Connect with the physical sensation in your body. It always feels really bad; it’s usually a tightening in the throat or the heart or the solar plexus. Stay with that and say to yourself, ‘Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort, fear – you don’t even have to call it anything – this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity.’ Just connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.”
“Just connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world.” -P.C.
This time around I’ve got something special for you: your very own Guided Meditation Audio Track. Anytime you experience a particularly strong and uncomfortable emotion (I definitely had a few of these times while I was planning for my wedding this year!) remember: you only have to manage to swim for 90 seconds. Sit, breathe, imagine yourself floating in the center of the calm ocean. You can swim your way out.
1. Dive in: Watch your thoughts come and go. Do not control or manipulate. Do not change or rush. Notice that the thoughts are like waves. They arise out of the ocean of consciousness and then dissolve right back to where they came from. They were never separate.
2.Get Wet: If there is one wave that is particularly strong, big, or threatening, do not turn your back on it. Allow the wave to wash over you. Even if the wave crashes on you, as if the emotion is particularly strong, stay with it. Do not swim away. Let the wave crash and the water droplets re-join the ocean.
3. Float: Whenever new thoughts arise, like waves raised by the wind, watch them dissolve back into the ocean. Allow yourself to float in the center of your experience. Eventually, your thoughts will be like a calm ocean.
When you feel ready to integrate back into your daily life, do so slowly and mindfully. Take a few minutes to vacation from worrying and then float through your day.