How can we overcome the afflictions of the mind that get in the way of our contentment? First, we must understand what the obstacles to our contentment are, get to know how they affect us, and find the self-discipline to improve ourselves. Then, we must realize that what we cannot change, we need to let go.
The Kleshas: Enemies of Contentment
The Kleshas, a key concept in ancient yogic philosophy, refer to our negative mental states. When we are dealing with kleshas, we:
- become trapped by our misunderstanding (avidya “ignorance”)
- are convinced that we’re an individual limited in time, space, and knowledge (asmita “ego-attachment”)
- are sure that we need to have certain things to make us happy (raga “desire”),
- become avoidant of other things that we don’t like (dvesha “aversion”)
- believe that we need to hold tightly to our mistaken identity (abhinivesha “fear of death”).
Where To Begin?
To acquire a calm and tranquil mind, we must take action. Our greatest resource is the yoga of action, Karma yoga, also known as Kriya Yoga. Our actions must be made with eternal vigilance and strong dedication in order to enact lasting change.
Tapas: The Key to Contentment
In yogic philosophy, self-discipline is called Tapas, meaning heat. The element of fire, which is present in Tapas, is also the element of transformation. It is the fire of practice that burns off the impurities that get in the way of our state of bliss. Transformation generally occurs when we allow change to happen, that is, by stepping outside of our comfort zone and practicing poses, behaviors or new perspectives that we’re not confident with yet or may even be afraid of. This is when we begin to grow and learn about ourselves. When we do not practice Tapas and keep our life easy all the time, we don’t tend to learn the life lessons we need to make us stronger and more developed people. So, don’t be afraid to travel the bumpy road of Tapas in order to find a place of peace and freedom. The lessons we learn from facing challenges and fears are the ones that tend to have the biggest spiritual impact on us.
Svadyaya: The Action of Contentment
Svadyaya refers to the self-study and reflection we need to develop and make improvements, the cultivation of the witness mind. Svadyaya is essential to overcome the Kleshas and find lasting contentment. It is the self-study and reflection we need to develop and make improvements. When we practice svadyaya, we observe and inquire into our own thoughts, actions, habits, and behaviors. When we are conscious of what is happening within us, we can have more freedom of choice to express our own true nature. Svadhyaya is associated with study because we can learn more about who we are by reading articles, listening to dharma talks, singing, dancing, and investing time in our communities. We have to take an audit of ourselves on an ongoing basis to understand which Kleshas are at play and when.
Ishvara Pranidhana: Learning to Surrender
The yoga masters also speak of using the practice of Ishvara Pranidhana, translated as devotion to source or the inner master. This surrender requires great inner stability and understanding to be willing and able to trust in the universe.
Putting It Into Practice
There are many practices and strategies for creating contentment. The best one for you may differ by circumstance, so, as the old saying goes: “If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again”.
Along with the steady application of asana and meditation to cultivate contentment, Sutra 11:33 says to neutralize the negative tendencies of the mind by cultivating their positive counterparts in attitude and action. Consider challenging yourself by writing down ten positive thoughts every day for a week, which is a type of gratitude practice. See what happens.