The Warrior-Saint is an archetype or template for us to follow on the path of Kundalini Yoga: it is an ideal or role-model that we can grow into. It represents a fusion of the Warrior’s fearless, self-initiating energy and the compassionate, service-oriented, higher-minded energy of the Saint. The resulting archetype is a person of great inner power, self-sovereign, and fearless in the unearthing of the shadow Self. The Way is the nature of the Warrior-Saint that we strive to embody. The Paths we choose to walk as Warrior-Saints are the tools we use to lay down new and better habits.
These habits or Paths are expressed yogically in Patanjali’s 5 niyamas- a set of inner ethics- that the yogi uses as navigation through life’s turbulence. Last week we explored Śauca.
This week we explore the concept of Santoṣa.
The Niyamas- internal ethics
The niyamas are a set of 5 virtuous habits that we must try to embody. They are as follows:
- Śauca: purity, clearness of mind, speech and body
- Santoṣa: contentment, patience, acceptance of others, acceptance of one’s circumstances as they are in order to get past or change them, optimism for self, being in the moment
- Tapas: persistence, perseverance, discipline, containment of one’s energy
- Svādhyāya: study of self, self-reflection, introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches and actions
- Īśvarapraṇidhāna: contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality), surrender, service to That which is greater than ourselves
The Path of Patience: Santoṣa
Santoṣa is contentment: it is the ability to dwell in the moment and be at peace with what is. This concept is expressed in Buddhism in the Four Noble Truths; that suffering is, in essence, a by-product of wishing that things were other than they are (desiring something more than what we have before us). For example- I get up hoping for a sunny day but it is pouring with rain. I can argue with ‘what is’ all day long and be miserable or I can accept things as they are and change my plans accordingly.
Santoṣa offers us a path of sitting in the moment. Fully immersed in what is before us and around us. It is an invitation to deep contentment by sitting fully in the Self and just being. When we show up fully wherever we are, a deep peace begins to settle on us…and then gratitude flows in. Gratitude leads us into joy. The joy of being and not needing anything other than what is before us. This is an energetic shift from doing into being: when we access Being we connect with the field of ‘All That Is’. We feel this as a tangible, physical experience of release, as if the body, mind and spirit take a vast sigh and sit down in peace. This is an experience of shuniya- where the ego is brought to the point of zero. And we don’t have to be sitting still on a yoga mat to do this. It is a state of being that we can bring to all our activities and interactions.
But what about wanting more, being more, and our plans and targets?
Yogi Bhajan (Master of Kundalini Yoga) used the image of human beings as transceivers: our bodymind transmits energy and vibrations (in form of thought, mood etc) but also receives energy and vibrations. He was clear that as we practise our yoga and meditation that we become more magnetic. The ideal is that we do our daily sadhana (spiritual practices) and allow the universe to deliver to us the things that we need. In his own words:
“Patience pays. Wait. Let the hand of God work for you. The One who has created you, let Him create all the environments, circumstances, and facilities and faculties.”
Here, the key to receiving is patience. We can set our intentions, turn up on our mats, turn up fully present in the world in all our roles, and the universe does the rest. It is not my business HOW this happens! I transmit and I receive. But my transmission needs to pure and coming from soul level (hence the need for purity in thought, word and deed- Śauca).
We may have endless plans, desires, things we want to buy and accumulate- all of which bring a spectrum of suffering with them. We know those voices! “I’ll be happy when I get….”, “I’ll be a proper yogi when I can…”, “I should be doing….”, “I’m not good enough if I haven’t achieved….”. All of these internal mantras send out a clear energy that here and now is not enough. That the present state of being is lack of something. That the present represents deficiency. And these mantras create within us a state of fear, self-deprecation, separation and a drive to be anywhere other than where we are. They say that now is not enough.
When we are impatient, we reject Life itself. When we are patient, we are in the Flow of All That is.
Wanting more, being more, making plans and setting targets are a fine use of energy: they flow from the masculine, solar power-house energy that gets things done. It is an energy that builds, creates, manifests and makes things happen. But…that energy needs to be balanced with the feminine, lunar energy of receptivity. An energy of sitting in the moment in deep contentment with all that is- Santoṣa.
And santoṣa extends to all areas of our lives. Our ability to ‘sit’ fully in our own life- in whatever we are doing- and also to find patience and acceptance of others. I know! No-one said that this is an easy Path! How often do we accept others only when they do what we tell them? When they fall in line with our expectations of them? It’s a tender area that takes courage to look at. Is our love really unconditional, or does it depend on you shaping yourself into what I want you to be? Ouch…
Kundalini Yoga and the Neutral Mind
Santoṣa points to a state of being in balance regardless of what’s going on in our lives. In Kundalini Yoga we refer to this state as the Neutral Mind– the third of the Ten Yogic Bodies. It is a state of calmness and equanimity from where we can act, and not react. It is a state of dwelling fully in the present with all the rich gifts that life offers us.
And what if something horrible is happening? From our neutrality, from our Presence, from our deep inner Peace, we can act. We can take action that is effective and not fuelled by the chaotic fire of strong, uncontrolled emotions. But choices made within the womb of contentment are choices made from power and Right Mind.
How do I dwell in the moment?
- Know that you have a choice in every moment to show up fully.
- Do a self-check in: Is the problem the situation, or my reaction to the situation?
- Put post-it notes of affirmations around the house such as: Everything is moving at the proper speed./ Choice is the most profound freedom./ There is always enough time in nature. / It won’t always be like this.
- Choose an inspiring quote as your screen-saver.
- Use your busy-ness as lesson time! I often joke that my car is my karma-machine as I often sit in traffic jams. I can get cross (which I regularly do!) or I can choose to be in peace and enjoy the still time. Inevitably, when I relax into What Is, things shift and the jam clears. It’s that great mystery of life that when we accept what is, then shift happens.
- Challenge yourself! Choose the longest line at the supermarket checkout. Breathe and simply observe.
- When you meet with someone, be fully present. Don’t make comments or offer advice. Be fully present and listen with your whole body. See how that is. Be with them in the moment and receive from them fully. Notice how they respond to you.
- Remind yourself when you feel impatience surfacing that things will change. The traffic will clear. The tidying will get done. Your teenager will calm down (eventually!). Even life’s most devastating events will come to an end.
Your power lies in choice. You can either ride the energy, or let it ride you. When we ride the energy through Presence, we are carried into a space of deep contentment and of connection to the vast source of All That Is.
Next week: The Way of the Warrior Saint- The Path of Self-Control: Tapas