I struggle during the holidays with reunion small-talk.
The last point in my life I felt secure in these talks? College. There I had an institution to hide behind, a goal, a deliverable at the end of my task. Blessed to go to college for many reasons, the minor one being a shield of answers to unanswerable questions. What are you doing with your life? Are you still acting? Where are you working these days?
We are raised in a society that is results-based, materialistic, and at times not at all concerned with the reality of one’s soul. I was a catalyst on this, usually when introduced to people one of my first questions on my mind was Where do you work? Somewhere after 8 or 10 post-college Thanksgivings I shifted this question to What do you like doing? What’s happening in your world currently? Are you enjoying yourself these days?
My Thanksgiving this year consisted of a high-tempo reunion week, filled with questions. I was so patient, answering completely, being vulnerable, exposing. Venting, yes. Lost within contexts, answers, financial and geographical details that were as difficult to talk about as they were freeing to air out. At times, completely emotionally exhausting.
Cornered on the deck, I sat wondering why I had so much ground to cover. My heart was feeling the loss of my boyfriend, whom I had broken up with a week before. Why aren’t things different? Why didn’t we work out? Why do I feel so alone while surrounded by people?
In Patajali’s Yoga Sutras, eight limbs are described as a way of living a yogic path. The second of these eight limbs are the five Niyamas, or the observances of a spiritual life. On that list? Santosha Niyama, or contentment. Our willingness to be present with whatever life brings.
Contentment is the difference between one who is constantly searching and one who is consistently there.
It was after this Thanksgiving I realized that contentment does not rely on questions. Contentment relies on presence and responsibility. Contentment is gratitude, the ability to believe that things could be worse and things are getting better at the same time. Contentment is going to Thanksgiving and answering the exterior questions with interior truth.
The next few months I know will challenge my contentment. Searching for a job, getting over a relationship, seeking inner destiny. A laundry list, for sure. But may I be grateful and content, filled with the Niyama of what is. May all beings be unburdened, unbound, and forever present in all things. For that is Santosha Niyama. That is the birthplace of peace and prosperity. That is what is.