Updated: May 19, 2021
“What Yoga does offer is a genuine and time-tested practice that has proven itself effective over centuries by people like you and me: ordinary people leading ordinary lives facing extraordinary challenges. Yoga offers us a pragmatic and realistic practice that helps us meet the most difficult situations with courage and equanimity. Yoga does not remove us from the reality or responsibilities of everyday life but rather places our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of experience. We don’t transcend our lives; we return to the life we left behind in the hopes of something better.”
-- Bringing Yoga to Life, Donna Farhi
This morning I was awoken by our two newest family members running around my bed, over my body and head, joyfully welcoming the day. We recently adopted two black-and-white kittens. You may have seen them on my social media accounts lately as I have a new habit of posting about them constantly; yes, I’ve become one of Those Cat People.
They’re quickly becoming friends after having been introduced to each other about a week ago. I have never been a pet-owner before. Growing up my family had pets (a dog, two gerbils and two hamsters) but my parents were around to oversee their upbringing. This is my first time being completely responsible for the life of two animals, a responsibility I share with my wife, Christa.
With lockdown in place for just over a year now due to COVID, our lives have become fairly routine. Wake up, feed the cats, clean the kitty litter, morning practice, greet Christa, eat breakfast, begin the workday… From the outside, I’m sure it sounds mundane. But for me it feels something like contentment…? I say this with a question mark as feeling content is something I’ve always struggled with, being a stubborn and fairly driven woman.
But still, contentment found me in the most unexpected way.
The strangest thing happened this morning… While I was cleaning out my kittens’ litter, I felt a quiet sense of contentment while doing it.
What the what?
Like I said, contentment is not a feeling I know well. I have always been inspired by ambitious goals and lofty dreams. My life a few years ago looked much more hectic and *gLaMoRoUs* than it does now. I was taking multiple international trips per year, engaged in hours upon hours of daily yoga practice, living in large communities of spiritual seekers and meeting a couple hundred new people every year, but I was never particularly content.
I don’t know if this newfound feeling is a function of transitioning from my 20’s to my 30’s but I’m finding a new enjoyment in living more simply. And things really are simpler now, partly thanks to COVID and the resulting lockdowns. I’ve been in one city and have been living in the same home for longer than I ever have for the past decade. I’ve been in a committed partnership with one person for longer than I’ve ever been in my life. I cook *nearly* all my meals from scratch. I handle my own trash. I clean my own toilet. I take care of my own bills and daily responsibilities. My life has become more basic than ever and yet, somehow, more satisfying. Yet, I’m not doing what modern Western culture would say will bring happiness (get skinny, get rich, get famous, get fit, travel the world, crush your goal, rise and grind, #treatyourself, #motivationmonday, #YOLO)… So what's going on here?
I’ll say it a third time, contentment is a new feeling for me. In Yoga philosophy, we call this the principle of Santosha, which is a virtue we can cultivate within ourselves. Santosha is a quality that many of my spiritual teachers have recommended that I cultivate after observing me in full-on, head-strong, ambition-mode. And now, without trying, it has arisen out of the blue, out of nothing. It’s not like I’ve achieved many of the big goals that I had set out to reach a decade ago. I wanted to open a chain of yoga studios in Europe, live in the South of France, experience Kundalini rising, become wealthy (or marry a wealthy man). So why is it that being in a committed partnership with one person, taking care of my cats, eating home-made food, teaching yoga and living simply is doing for me what my extravagant lifestyle of the last decade couldn’t do?
I don’t know if it’s aging and maturity or if it’s a result of my spiritual practice. Unfortunately, there’s no way of ever knowing why contentment has found me now. Unless we come up with a way of running two lives simultaneously and seeing what the outcome will be where one version of me doesn’t settle down and keeps striving
while another version of me carries on as I have. But anyhow, back to the moment this morning of scooping cat poop and feeling content about life.
As I was cleaning out the kitty litter of two days’ worth of two cats’ excrement, I felt content. My wife was still sleeping upstairs. The cats sat nearby, inhaling their breakfasts like they hadn’t eaten in days, making adorable cat-inhaling-food noises. I sat in front of their litter box, inhaling the scent of their feces and urine mixed with scented kitty litter. I scooped out the clumps of used kitty litter into a brown paper bag with a plastic blue shovel. And even though the contents of the moment were the opposite of glamorous, contentment arose anyway. Like when the Grinch-stole-Christmas and it “came just the same!” I was taking care of my cats; there was warm air coming in through the partly opened window in front of me; the hope of a new day ahead. Everything about it was as unglamorous as it comes but it felt rich with Presence.
I’m learning more and more that there is enlightenment to be found in the daily activities of our lives. It just takes us placing our feet firmly and resolutely in the practical ground of the present moment.
So, Dear Reader... How is this all landing with you? Is Contentment a feeling you've experienced? How do you relate to Contentment? Please leave a comment below and let's open up a conversation.