Power of Intention
“Contentment means just to be as we are without going to outside things for our happiness.” ~Satchitananda
You might be thinking, “It’s New Years! It’s time to improve and strive and make plans! It’s time to loose weight, stop smoking, make a budget, exercise more & eat healthier! Those are the five most popular New Year’s Resolutions, after all. What’s all this talk about contentment?
Contentment both grows from and fuels practice. Yoga is an empirical endeavor. All the theory in the universe doesn’t matter at all if a posture disturbs you, or tweaks an injury. Our time on the mat is an experiment in awareness, breath & embodiment. Practice gives us freedom to explore the relationship – or simply enjoy it! – between our body, breath & mind. Observing our breath as we work with opposing forces, muscularly, structurally and maybe even emotionally, gives us feedback about our mind & our relationship with the world. We adjust our posture, and maybe even sometimes our lives, accordingly.
As an experiment in breath-body-mind interaction, it is important to have clarity about what is the case before we start off into fantasy. Clarity can feel intimidating, perhaps even confrontational if there’s something on our mat we think we don’t want to see. Contentment comes not from satisfaction with whatever we find, nor from images of what we think we’d like. Contentment comes from realizing that what we want comes through acknowledging what is.
Contentment is not magic, nor is it part of the self-esteem movement. Acknowledgement of what is – called Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach – brings us into the present moment. Investigation of what is brings us into this breath, how our body feels in this moment, and where in our body we feel a particular condition. The present moment is not a measure of time, which we know because of how our emotions effect our perception of time. The present moment, the Now as Eckhart Tolle dubs it, is always utterly unique in content but identical in form: it is timeless. This is our key to universal consciousness, always with us, never separated but not always acknowledged.
Aristotle, a yogi of a very different tradition, noted as the very foundation of his ethics that happiness is most reliably achieved not by aiming at happiness, but by participating in activity with full engagement. And his teacher, Plato, noted that all beings desire only happiness, we are just frequently deluded about what will bring us happiness. Since Resolutions are all about what we think will bring us happiness, perhaps it is wise to start with contentment on the mat: come to the mat, be “just as we are” and find out about that being. The intentions we plant spontaneously in that present moment take root in a far more powerful place than our daybooks or blackberries can capture.