Does Contentment come from doing or being?

In Yoga we are encouraged to develop Santosha, a sense of contentment in our life. A pretty tall order, you might say, when there’s still so much to do, to achieve, to worry about. Have you ever asked yourself why that is?

The answer is probably a little disconcerting: We tend to rate our contentment in life by what we do, not by who we are. We constantly assess how we are going in our lives by what we’ve done, what we are currently achieving or what we plan to accomplish in the future.

Depending on how successful we are in these actions, we determine whether or not our lives are on track and whether or not we’re entitled to feel satisfied with our lives. If we haven’t done something we often remonstrate ourselves for not working hard enough, for being lazy.

But have you noticed that even when we do achieve the goals we set ourselves, we don’t end up with a lasting sense of peace? Indeed, we just end up with a longer list of things to do.

There is another way to think about our lives, which makes it easier to find contentment: to think about who we are, instead of what we do. In yoga terms, this is the path of being, and it involves transforming our obsession with action into a more profound contemplation of ourselves.

On a simple level, whenever you are doing anything, rather than focusing on the action itself, think about how you are be-having. Are you exhibiting grace under pressure? Are you performing quiet acts of kindness to the people around you?

In looking at yourself through this lens, you might find you like yourself a whole lot more and, in the process, find contentment in your life.

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