Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.42: From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.
(santosha anuttamah sukha labhah)
Spiritual teacher, Ramana Maharishi, used to say “call off the search” because what we are seeking is inside of us. What we are looking for, we already have. The purpose of sadhana, spiritual practice, is to uncover what is blocking the inner eye from seeing the truth. Even when yoga is done for physical reasons, the practice is still one of removal. The physical practice removes, pain, weight and disease. It reveals the toned muscles underneath the skin.
The practice is self generated. The results are self generated. A teacher shows the way but the practice has to be done by the student. The ultimate purpose of the practice is not to gain anything. The purpose is to “abide in your true nature” (Yoga Sutra 1:3). Living comfortably in one’s nature brings santosha and santosha brings happiness and joy.
Constantly searching for the next big teacher that will take you to the next level, that next adjustment that will get you into the pose, the next workshop that will change your practice, can avert the mind away from the beauty that is already present within, on the mat and in your life. You may lose the bird in the hand trying to get the two that are in the bush.
The “Next Big” Trap
Many yoga students fall into the “next big” trap when:
- Everything in the practice is going well –You have gotten to the point where you can do all the poses at a level that allows for a fluid practice. If you are not in the “next big” trap, this stage of the practice frees the mind up to experience moving meditation. Your teacher is not stopping you to be adjusted and you can really enjoy the mental and physical purification that happens in a fluid practice. Instead of enjoying this stage, many students start to look for the next big pose. They start to get upset that the teacher is no longer adjusting them. They start looking for the next teacher to take them to the next level. Instead of using this as an opportunity to go deep within, the attention is taken outward.
- Faith, without works, is dead, James 2:17- searching, thinking about, having faith in the practice is not enough. Action or application is the key. Many people are searching for the “next big” to get out of the work of becoming the “next big” themselves. It is easier to think that there is a magical technique that will immediately help your arm balance or get rid of tight hamstrings. The thought is,that if you can just find the perfect teacher, workshop, technique, you will be able to do it. The truth is that without work, no technique will work.
- You Are Not Up For the Inside Job-Looking within and becoming comfortable with abiding within yourself is the key to lasting happiness. The happiness we seek can only be created when we understand that we do not have to be ruled by our compulsions. Getting to the point where we don’t take ourselves or life too seriously, requires an inner journey of courage and strength. The search for “the next big” keeps us looking outside ourselves for happiness. Putting our happiness in the hands of a person, pose or event only brings temporary happiness. Once that person leaves, the pose becomes old or the event is over, the emotional roller coaster that dips in between valleys of happiness and hills of joy comes back.
Healthy Desire vs the “Next Big”
Desire makes the world go round. Healthy desire is exciting, fun, and joyful for everyone involved. A person who is passionate about something can light a fire that changes the world. Under this fire, is a layer of santosha. Even though you may not have the object of your desire, you are happy with your efforts and are enjoying the journey.
Many people ask, “how can someone be content when there is pain or sadness in their life?” The contentment comes from having a deep connection with the Self. All emotions are an experience in the field of unconsciousness. After the event or emotions go, consciousness still remains. Abiding in the Self, is to abide in what remains when all else goes. The person who realizes this feels the emotions while knowing that, like everything else, they come and go. There is no fight against the emotions nor is their a dwelling in them. There is not a holding or pushing away. Their is only experience. Underneath that, lies the contentment. Everything is unfolding. We are there to witness it.
The “next big” feels different. The dominate emotions are frustration and unrest. The feeling of discontent is so big that it starts to seep into seemingly unrelated areas of life. Instead of feeling excitement, it feels more like an addiction or uncontrolled compulsion. The “next big” often comes with “I would be, if only” or ” i will be, when” statements. “I would be happy if only I could bind in Marchi D”. The “next big” often takes causalities. Many corporations engage in unscrupulous business practices because they want “the next big”. We can hurt ourselves by looking for the “next big”. For example, going beyond our bodies limits in yoga and getting injured trying to get to the the next big yoga pose.
When obsessed with “the next big” the connection with the Self can be blocked. The fire of emotion is all consuming. There is no calm eye behind it all seeing. The only thing in the minds eye, is the next big thing. All the goodness of life can be blocked by the immensity of the next big thing. We have all met these people. They are so driven that they don’t see that the sky is falling around them.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.42 From an attitude of contentment (santosha), unexcelled happiness, mental comfort, joy, and satisfaction is obtained.
(santosha anuttamah sukha labhah)
Shanna Small has been practicing Ashtanga Yoga and studying the Yoga Sutras since 2001. She has studied in Mysore with Sharath Jois and is the Director of AYS Charlotte, a school for traditional Ashtanga in Charlotte NC. She has written for Yoga International and the Ashtanga Dispatch. Go here for more information on AYS Charlotte. For information on workshops, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.