In the Face of DiscontentmentJune 10, 2013
Every month at Sacred Thread Yoga, we have a theme of the month that we as teachers are supposed to weave into our yoga classes. This month, we are talking about Santosha or contentment. “Easy!” I thought. I’ve led classes themed around Santosha before; I think I am a generally content person; etc, etc. One of my favorite things to look at when it comes to contentment is this idea that we can’t just be content when things are good. Our work is to find contentment at all times – a general base level of existence that accepts all that comes our way with equanimity and contentment. No need to change how things are. Isn’t that lovely and yogic?
So, flash back a few weeks… My husband and I were in Spain and while doing some hiking we lamented that we don’t hike or camp nearly as much as we would like. Right then and there we agree that we will go camping the weekend of June 8. Keep in mind this is only two weeks after we return from our trip abroad. We get back and of course things are hectic as work, emails, and life have continued despite our vacation. Suddenly, I realize that June 8 is THIS weekend and I really truly need those two days to get some work done. But, I don’t want to be the one to call off our camping trip so I hint, I mention the forecast for rain… No such luck. Matt is all in and thinks we should go. Ok. So I smash as much as I can into the Monday – Thursday work week. Sneak in a half day on Friday and somehow manage to get food in the cooler and hiking boots in the car.
Up 575 we go and smack into the POURING rain. I’m not talking about a May Shower; I’m talking hurricane quality rain so heavy the only thing we can see out of the windshield is the hazard lights of the car in front of us. You can imagine this is only fueling my “we should turn around and stay home” thoughts. We keep going.
We arrive at our campsite. Now this site is truly “our” site – we found a place close enough that we can park the car and only have to hike maybe 100 yards. We have a little clearing just big enough for our tent, 2 chairs and a fire right next to a river. Very secluded, very, very awesome. Now normally, our little 100 yard hike is a non-issue. Through the woods, cross a little stream and we are there. But this time, I swear a FIELD of poison ivy grew up in this 100 yards. Now, I usually pride myself in not being allergic to poison ivy. In all the hiking we’ve done over the years, I have never ever had poison ivy. Not even as a kid. But for some reason, this time I was all upset. “I don’t want to hike through this,” I complained. And my thoughts continued on the “I want to turn around and go home” path.
Somehow, through magic I’m sure, the rain stops just long enough for us to hop, skip and jump through poison ivy, to get a tent pitched and enjoy about an hour of campfire time. We sleep through another rain storm, safe and dry in our tent, and awake to a gorgeous blue day. And, as I woke up, I realized I spent the entire day yesterday being unhappy. Living in a space of discontent. Was it the ideal situation for a camping weekend? No probably not. Was it the same camping and hiking that I love and look forward to? Yes absolutely. So why was I having such trouble with resting in my source of contentment? I vow to lighten up and settle back into my space of contentment.
We go for our hike on a trail we’ve done before only to find it has been completely destroyed by what I’m guessing was a combination of a very icy winter and wet spring. There were so many downed trees that we literally couldn’t move forward without bushwhacking for hours. Nope, turned around. And, try as I might, again I am unhappy. Didn’t get to do the frickin’ hike we planned this entire trip around…. Argh. So now, I am both discontent with the situation I’m in and I am even more discontent that I am unable to be content. I’m a YOGA TEACHER for gosh sake, and I can’t even manage to be content for one silly weekend. How am I supposed to teach anyone anything about contentment when a little rain will set me off?! I silently vow to give up teaching and live in the woods with bourbon and my discontent to sustain me.
Sunday, we pack up, pick up biscuits from our favorite mountain grocer and decide to take a new, long way home so we can enjoy the mountains just a bit longer. And somewhere along this drive I realize how much I’m enjoying myself. How much I like being able to drive with the windows down and the air smelling fresh. How much I like spending time in areas where my cell phone doesn’t work. And as I watched, I saw the exact same things that happened all weekend – the rain, the frustrating ping of an unanswered email would occasionally come through, yet another hike that we didn’t do – continued to happen, but I also saw things that had been happening all weekend that I totally missed on Friday and Saturday – I was able to read half of a fabulous novel I’ve been wanting to read, I slept more than 7 hours both nights, my awesome husband put up with my grumpy ass and continued to be cheerful despite me, I didn’t get poison ivy….
And, so the lesson: was I able to be content in a situation I found to be less than ideal? No. This time I wasn’t able to find that contentment as easily as I would have liked. But, in the end, I did see that contentment was present throughout the weekend. I just wasn’t able to see it. And, knowing this makes me hopeful that next time I find myself overcome with discontent, I will remember and maybe even find a minute in that place of contentment. If this idea of Santosha was easy, we would all just walk around content as could be, wouldn’t we? My work is clear. Is yours?