Contentment – a practice

What is true for you in 2022? 

I hope you’ve had a good start of the year. For many of us, the first weeks of the year is where we set up new visions, intentions, projects, and so-called “resolutions.” It is certainly a great time to think about those and get started with what we feel we need the most.

However, and quite curiously, for me this January I have felt a desire for … not having any intentions. Or, put differently, my “intention” is to have “no” formal intention – at least for now.

From 2021 lessons…

Somehow, I am still in the process of digesting 2021. Last year has given me a lot, but not exactly in the way I had thought it would. There were indeed a few hardships: a heart-breaking move out of our loved log cabin in February, the recurrent uncertainty of potential (and actual) new lockdowns for yoga activities and my business… a continuing invitation to be OK with not knowing and live with uncertainty as we’ve been all been dealing with these past 2 years.

This invitation from life peaked as I witnessed my mom’s cancer process degrading, stabilizing, improving and degrading again for a few times last year. My dad, my sister and I, along with the doctors trying to navigate her usual case, were doing our best to keep our hopes high. However, mid-September we were told that all hopes had vanished; it was a matter of days, couple of weeks at most. We all quickly dropped everything we had in our hands and were close to her until her last breath on October 3rd.

In addition to the immense pain and unsettling feelings 2021 brought to me, the past year also taught me two beautiful life lessons:

(1) Nothing is permanent; “This too shall pass” as Karen Blixen famously put it; and

(2) I actually do not know what is ahead of me – and my practice is here to teach me how to be OK with that. The loss of a home, a relationship, a job or a loved one are all examples of irreversible and often unexpected endings. Even though we might know these endings are coming up – eventually – we still have no idea about how life feels like beyond the loss.

In the light of these two lessons, I realized I basically had two options: either I resist what is imminent and out of my control – and I suffer (refusing the endings, regretting or judging them); or I accept what is happening and actually make it a practice to enjoy what is here right now.

… to 2022 opportunities

After the wilderness of 2021, this new year I have felt called to trade my usual intention and wish lists (which nonetheless brought me lots of value in the past many years) with one new mottos: Contentment.

Honestly, moving out of a “true grown-up” lovely house and back into the 1-BR rental we’ve had since our mid-twenties felt like regressing. Experiencing months that felt like my company was making as little as it did in its first year felt shameful. Grieving my mum and seeing death so closely was overwhelming. Not to add the pandemic and all the controversy and divisiveness it brought up recently…

Yet, as the old Buddhist sages said it before: “Pain is inevitable, suffering isn’t.” Given all the turmoil from 2021, only one question then is truly helpful:

How can I find contentment, i.e. a precursor to happiness, with what is happening?

Here is my suggestion. Maybe you want to try it out with me, FIRST NAME.

Contentment, step 1

We can start with the easiest part. For example: enjoying simple moments with loved ones, a nice yoga class, a nourishing meal, a walk in the park, a cup of tea and a good book. Gratifying what we know won’t last forever, and truly taking pleasure in it.

Contentment, step 2

Then, we slowly raise the bar. For instance, we can identify what we are grateful for happened in 2021. I was grateful that I could teach in person again and connected with many of you. Despite the spread of the virus, we could hold a fantastic retreat over new year’s. I could be close to my mom in the last two weeks of her life and had some of the most beautiful connections with her. I grew closer to my sister and dad and was “initiated” to what grieving is. We were blessed with an Indian summer in Denmark in September. I stayed healthy… and there is much more I am grateful for.

Contentment, step 3

Next, we move onto what we are grateful for today and keep doing so regularly. Here making a short list of the things we are thankful for in our life currently, small or big, can be helpful.

Contentment, step 4

The next and final step is accepting what is difficult. Letting someone, a house, a job, a relationship, or what we think is right for others go is not easy. But really, the suffering we experience is not due to the loss of the thing or person per se. Rather, we suffer because we do not accept the feelings the loss brings up in us.

Start with something you can let go of right now in this moment, such as this unnecessary tension in your shoulder or hip or this recurrent worry about whether such event will happen or not.

Then, think of what you lost in 2021, and let it go. Wish it or them well. Perhaps make a list and burn it or tear it up into pieces. Send those things on your list your blessings and gratitude and let them go their way.

This last stage, accepting, directly means or implies letting go. It comes with two huge rewards: the experience of liberation, or pure freedom, and the innocent joy that goes along with it.

Contentment – everyday

Cultivating contentment is not just a one-time task. You can bring it again and again into your life and make it part of your everyday. Right now as you read this, notice the next thought. Let it gently go, drop it softly, and notice the liberation that comes with it, the “real-ease” or release that follows. If you meditate, apply contentment too. Let go of the thought that your mind wants you to think is more important than your meditation, and notice how that feels.  

This is pure joy.

So here it is, for me, one word or intention for now: Contentment (Santosa in Sanskrit, one of the Yamas/Niyamas or ethics of yoga). What is your word?

As weird, trivial, and paradoxical as it might sound, we are wired to go through what life is making us face, including both the delights and the hardships. If we are made to grieve, ultimately we also are made to experience pure joy. Pure joy is indeed our true nature and lies right inside us already, simply waiting for our own re-discovery… as yoga and many other ancient traditions have been teaching us for thousands of years.

Want to give it a try with me this year?

I am sending you much love, and I can’t wait to connect with you soon.

If you are in town, in addition to my weekly classes, I’d be happy to see you at these workshops:

PRECIOUS SPACE on Jan 29th at Pakhus Yoga: 3 hours to build a feeling of spaciousness into our body, mind, and heart with a nice hip- and shoulder-opening sequence and a space-enhancing meditation session. A lovely journey into space and the wonder of being present. Read more here.

UPSIDE DOWN on Feb 26th at Yoga Flat: 3 hours to play around on our hands with inversions and some arm balances. Don’t think you need to have strong pumped arms for it, because you don’t. Just bring your willingness to play and learn simple techniques to ease you into getting “high” on your hands! Read more here.

RETREATS. It is still, well, uncertain, but our hopes are that the Slovenia retreat is happening this year in May. The description will be updated very soon here, and meanwhile write to me if I should keep you on the loop when it is up and running.

Pernille and I will be also offering 2 retreats in Denmark: Sept 2-4 and over next new year’s… More coming soon! Read more about HeartWiseYoga Retreats.

Let me know how you’ve been, and I look forward to connecting with you very soon.

Cédric

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