I’ve always had trouble with the idea of being content. For a long time I confused being content with being happy and those two things are very, very different. Being content implies accepting things as they are with an open heart and without trying to change things to your liking. Being content means I can look honestly at any situation and be present with it rather than immediately trying to change a situation to make it feel better. Being content shows how everything, whether we like it or not, has worth and value.
When I was younger, I went through an extreme depression. In order to survive certain parts of my childhood, I learned to ignore all of my feelings. I was left numb to all emotions, both good and bad. I could stay composed in any situation. Nothing bothered me and nothing excited me. I was able to execute my social functions seamlessly and predictably. Numbness worked for awhile, but it grew into a depression that literally made my life halt for several months. I dropped out of college for a semester and traveled to a remote part of the southwest to heal myself. In addition to a lot of therapy, I found yoga.
Yoga provided a safe environment for me to start feeling again.
In the simplest way possible, I was just able to feel my body. It was stiff and weak, but my teachers kept saying that wherever I was at was fine. Just keep working and showing up and accept yourself as is each day. Slowly, I was able to see and notice my body changing. I became stronger. I was actually able to feel, physically, my legs and shoulders working and stretching. Feeling my body was the first doorway into feeling things on an emotional level.
Slowly I began to peel away my callouses. My protected heart was starting to become soft and vulnerable. I felt the excitement of getting new poses. I was able to feel proud of myself for trying all these poses. I was feeling a general sense of happiness. Food started to taste better, my vision seemed clearer, I felt a little more alive! I was coming out of my depression! With the good, came the bad. Yes, I felt happy, but I was also crying a lot more. I was able to laugh out loud at silly things, but I also felt shaking rage and anger. I started to feel like I was spinning out of control. My once ‘controlled state’ of being numb to everything around me dissipated and soon I felt like I was being affected by everything. Stoic Diana became a very sensitive Diana.
Santosha is a term in sanskrit that means being content. It was easier for me to understand this term in reference to my body. I felt happy and content doing my practice before I could do handstands, and I am content (and okay I am pretty excited as well) when I am able to nail a handstand. There are days where, for whatever reason, I can’t get into a handstand for the life of me and I am really okay with that.
The harder practice of being content for me comes in the emotional realm. I am grateful for my experience of numbness and depression. I am grateful for the long, arduous process out of my depression. I am content (and okay, I am also sort of thrilled) to feel excitement and happiness. The work is, Can I be content to feel anger and sadness and yes, even depression? Can I be content when things don’t go my way? Can I be content when I am sad? The answer is yes. It doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Being content doesn’t mean being happy. Being content means being present.
It’s a deeper knowledge that everything changes. I can do my best to create a pleasant life where I am happy, but I can’t be happy all the time. I will like parts and I will hate parts, but all are parts of the greater whole. I would much rather feel everything than nothing.
About the Author:
Diana Oppenheim is an in-it-for-life yogi. The practice of yoga is her grounding force in an ever-changing world. She believes in its power to heal, expand and bring balance to life as she has experienced it first hand. In her class you will find a strong, methodical and balanced sequence that meets each student where they are at. Her main source of inspiration comes from Annie Carpenter, Margo Kellison-Lightburn and Sara Strother.
Diana teaches yoga but will always consider herself a student of life first. She has a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Community Development and for all the plans she’s created, she loves the spontaneous plot twists of life.