Wishing, Wanting, Seeking, Striving = Losing. Isn’t It Time to Stop Already?

What yogic philosophy has to teach us about contentment

Santosha is the second Niyama, and it translates to contentment. The Niyamas make up the second of the 8 Limbs of Yoga and are essentially personal disciplines or observances we practice in an effort to find freedom.

This is the ninth post in a series of posts about the 8 Limbs. Last month we finished the first limb, but if you’d like to read the other eight and an overview first, go here. I’ll wait.

Do you ever want things to be different than they are? Do you strive toward possessions and achievements? What about the looks or envious traits of the girl next door? Where is the present moment in that? Where is the peace? Do you feel sad, empty, discontent when your imagined scenarios don’t come to fruition?

Santosha’s roots begin in acceptance, but they go deeper, pointing us to complete freedom. Santosha simply asks us to be present and at peace with what is. In fact, that’s the aim of yoga at it’s core. We come to our mats to examine ourselves — our tendencies, hearts, perceived shortcomings, our monsters — and yoga only asks us to be present. Yoga says “just be. Observe and be content with whatever arises.” Easy, right? In concept, yes. But in reality, not so much.

Santosha’s roots begin in acceptance, but they go deeper, pointing us to find complete freedom.

How much of your day do you spend planning and scheming for the next best thing? How often do you set your eyes upon tomorrow? Do you constantly look forward to vacation or your next big purchase? If so, where is the present moment? Is the present moment ever good, or even okay? If not, are you ever okay? Consider this: life truly only happens NOW.

We compare ourselves — our physical appearances, accomplishments, homes, jobs, families — to those around us, and we find discontent in the comparison.

Whenever we are gripping at a desire or outcome we are not practicing Santosha, and we are depleting our energy. Not practicing Santosha, we expect the world to meet our needs instead of adjusting ourselves to meet the world— as it is. We can’t change people and often can’t change situations, and each time we think we can, we steal a little more peace from ourselves.

A personal story

It’s interesting that this Niyama was the next to write about as I took a break from public posting for the last three weeks. Why? I haven’t been content with WHAT IS, and I’ve been striving to make things different. My situation only changed once I adjusted my own attitude toward it.

She pulled away. We used to spend time together, but she’s choosing differently now. She’s found contentment in her life without me in it. Fighting against this change, I reached out, made myself available, asked for forgiveness in anything I did to cause the situation. And guess what I discovered (after sobbing uncontrollably for several days and banging my head against a wall for a few weeks)? It’s not really about me. It’s about her life right now, her current needs — and I’ve been internalizing the situation with myself in the center of it.
I took a step back. I observed, assessed and reavaluated my role. I am fine as I am. I’ve done nothing wrong. She’s done nothing wrong — and there is nothing I can do about her current needs. She’s doing exactly what she needs to for her own growth and evolvement, and I have to be okay with it. I have to cultivate acceptance. I am okay with it. I am cultivating acceptance.
There are no guarantees in life. The sooner we realize that, the easier Santosha becomes. While I’m not completely at peace, I am practicing. People hurt us, sometimes for very valid reasons. I hurt myself more by not practicing contentment of the situation. Practice has to be enough. It is enough. It’s life.

So what does the practice of Santosha look like?

  • Opening our hearts to the present moment exactly as it is
  • Feeling gratitude for anything and everything in life — even sadness and discomfort. “I am thankful for being able to feel things deeply. I am alive.”
  • Cultivating a calm, abiding center
  • Meeting each moment with clarity, presence and curiosity
  • Seeing the universe as the abundant place it is
  • Riding the waves of life — the good, the bad, the ugly
  • Recognizing each moment as complete
  • Falling in love with life

In what ways is Santosha bumping up against your edges? How can you practice acceptance and contentment in this moment. Stop. Take a deep breath. Feel. Be. It’s enough. I promise.

Thanks for reading. Did you enjoy? Please tap the clappy hands💚 (as many times as you’d like) to recommend it to others. Namaste …


Hi! I’m Heather, a writer and yoga educator from SE Ohio. I share daily-ish here as part of my spiritual practice, and am working on my first book, Yoga Prayers. Download the first 25 pages, A Prelude to Yoga Prayers, for a brief introduction into yoga history and philosophy — and let me know what you think! Yogis, I’m also looking for stories to include in the full version of the book — how you came to yoga, what you’re learning, how you’re applying the 8 Limbs. Reach out!