Contentment sounds like such a dirty word especially in New York City where the onus is on you to make something, be something, do something that’s never been or been done before. The bigger, better, newer, brighter, faster, lighter, never good enough culture is the norm and if you are hanging on your couch you certainly are not. This city has options: dinners, parties, late night work hours, and of course… events. It’s a blessing and a curse.
To create. To create or to do work (which is creating) is our duty. Our DIVINE duty. Figuring out what our specific WORK is in this world is, is pretty much our primary mission. It’s an instruction laid out in every religious text and basically the central theme of The Bhagavad Gita, a yogi’s bible. You can’t get away from the work you are meant to do in this world. We call this your dharma.
So many people get such deep satisfaction from their work (I do), it’s even considered the very definition of happiness by happiness philosophers; doing our work and feeling like our existence matters. Would you agree? To me this is the single best definition of happiness I have ever heard.
But, we’re not talking about happiness exactly. The second Niyama is CONTENTMENT. To be content is to want for nothing. It’s the (famous to yogi’s) adage to do the work and completely relinquish all fruits of the labor. Absolutely the most amazing conundrum in the world. We are not just to work, but to find our True work, our true purpose, our true DHARMA. We must do that work, and not just do it, but a yogi must act ARTFULLY with no wasted action. We must aim to do our work in perfection, making every action count and yet… take no satisfaction nor any disappointment in what comes of our work.
Imagine your Dharma is to be a writer. You are called by THE DIVINE to script words which reveal the truth of human existence. You spend years crafting novels choosing every last comma, re-writing, editing, laboring in silence to be the best writer you can be. You are commanded by the rules of the Universe to leave it at that. Whether you sell zero or 2 million copies, you must live in contentment.
To me, the questions becomes about drive. Can I do the same quality of work without an EXTERNAL goal? Are you following? Contentment asks us to sit in real contemplation of our MOTIVATIONS. If our motivations for action are pure: (because it’s the work that needs to be done and that I am meant to do being the purest) we will be content to do our work and there will be no fluctuation of emotion attached to how our work is received. This is an incredible practice. This is contentment.
From childhood we are showered with “good girl” and “good boy” at each “correct” act and punished for choosing unwisely. Stickers and other gifts are even given for work that is received well. We look forward to pleasing our parents and teachers and this forward looking motivation creates a strong will in us to do actions we believe will garner those results. When we misjudge and the accolades don’t come, we wonder and asses and realign for more approval. But who is the judge? The truth is that only by listening inside and staying in alignment with the calling of our heart do we know we are doing the REAL WORK and then that is enough. Whether it is received with praise or not means nothing because we know we are in alignment and doing the work was never for that. It is when we start to adjust to hit the moving bulls eye of an external audience that we can become lost. One sees this many times in people’s “sophomore projects” as they try to repeat the response they received on a heart felt first project. We see it in the yoga room when a student stands up from a backbend in glorious unknowing and spends a year trying to “figure out” how they did it and do it again. Working from a place of calling from The Divine can never be repeated by aiming for the desired Result of the intellect. (Read that one twice.)
I call on you (and myself) this January to sit in contentment and trust that everything is in alignment. Another way of saying this is to say, I call on us all to RELAX. This doesn’t mean we get to sit on the couch (I know… too bad!). There is no getting out of the work. Instead, I call on us to call on The Divine and each one of us ask whole-heartedly to be driven by rightness of action and to be freed from any and all desire of result.
This is my prayer.
Please share your thoughts on Contentment with me this January by posting on Instagram, tagging @landyoganyc and hashtag #alleightlimbs.