Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.’ Lao Tzu- Sixth Century Chinese Philosopher
This is the story of my break. On 8th August 2017, I fell and badly fractured my elbow, had surgery 4 days later and then started a slow process of rehabilitation. A couple of months into my yoga training, I felt devastated; not only could I no longer do a downwards dog, I was now unable to attend a summer yoga course as well as attending the many classes I had booked before I was due to go back to work.
The universe had plans for me which didn't include all those classes. It forced me to be my own teacher. I ended up with five weeks where I could do very little asana practice and was in a great deal of pain. Then there were thirteen weeks off work where, most of the time, I was unable to drive, followed by a second operation and a further two weeks off, all in the middle of my yoga teacher training. It was a shock, at very least frustrating. And yet didn't someone once say the universe will give you what you need and not always what you want? Once I managed the pain and was off my 3 different pain killers, I was able to develop my meditation practice a little further and I was able to read. I had been doing meditation for over 20 years but it was quite hit and miss and hadn't done too much yogic reading if I'm honest. Yet these became the tools which helped me gain insights into yoga teachings, insights I had not considered deeply before but I sincerely hope will go with me into the future.
For our course we had to read The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and one in particular resonated with me:
‘Samtosadanattamah sukhalabah By contentment, great joy is gained.’
This seems obvious- contentment equals joy. So why does it even need to be said? Santosha is the second of five Niyamas, practices for self-training in yoga that deal with our inner world. These give guidance on how we can have a more positive relationship with ourselves, and create a strong and authentic connection, in order to have more sustainable relationships with others. Contentment here means that we do not need to go out of ourselves to find happiness but can truly experience it within- we don't need to keep looking for other things and people to make us happy.
At the onset of anything that seems disastrous or gives us limitations it's human to focus on the difficulty of the moment. Rising above it is Santosha- I think now this means bringing space that is an opportunity for growth. We have a choice- always.
The Bhagavad Gita teaches that when facing a tricky time you can become attached to your feelings of anger, frustration or injustice or you can choose to let it go when you realise that this is not going to help. It is possible to let go of your attachment to wanting to do certain things a certain way and you can accept the situation as it is. Yet very often we don't. Just because it's not fair.
Letting go might sound almost too saintly but I found out that it actually is the only option unless you want to keep being annoyed for weeks and then months. The Bhagavad Gita is clear that only when you accept something which appears negative can you ‘attain the grace of God’ aka contentment. Yoga teaches us to let go of aversion, of a feeling of hating something because it is not the way you wish it to be. It made sense. Instead of the gifts I had lost- like the freedom to drive my car, do a downwards dog or attend all those wonderful Zumba classes I missed so much, I now had the gift of time, something I always seemed to be lacking before- I meditated more and felt better from the inside.
Once back at work, busy, much weaker than I had thought and still recovering, I wavered sometimes. I know that this feeling of acceptance is not something easily achieved and retained. I started not to have time again- instead of making time for what was most important and I started to feel the frustration of not being able to always do an excellent job. Finding Santosha is not something you can just say you have accomplished off your bucket list. Instead it is fluid and comes in waves. Good to get that learnt in our box-ticking society.
Don't we all want a break? I asked the universe for one and I certainly got it! My arm is scarred and not as straight as it was but I now look back on the whole episode and it has become almost precious. It was a time of contemplation, of rest, of freedom, of tuning into the breath- because it was all I could do. No goals. As soon as I remember, I recreate it- only in terms of the meditation and breathwork, you understand. I would definitely say the more you meditate and engage in yoga practice, the easier it will become to enter this blissful state- Santosha. Contentment. Acceptance. Letting go.