When considering my own wellbeing lately, one thing has come up time and again: quality of life.
In our lives we are raised with a set of expectations which are largely the distillation of the world through the perspectives of the adults around us. This is why we can have one country and such a wide disparity in values. Individual opinions form our earliest thoughts and ideas. Then, as we become more outwardly aware, we add to that list of expectations those that come from marketing experts, as well as the opinions of other peoples’ parents as we interact with friends.
What you may not have encountered often enough in your formative years is just how pliable we are. Not only in the physical form, which again depends on the person who is our earliest model, but also in the more subtle aspects of our being. Everything can be arranged to suit us specifically: body breath mind.
You may have been operating on motivation you have never understood. Rarely are our expectations crafted so blatantly as from someone saying “I expect you to do …”. Instead we have deep seated motivations derived from the emotional landscape of children. We have no precedent for digging into these quiet and insidious inner forces in our culture. We are very much a “pacify into submission” kind of place. That is the very reason why I am grateful for the discovery of yoga in my life. I could have continued my entire life trying stuff myself into a mold that was neither the right size nor shape.
This brings me around to the concept of quality of life. Your choices inform the quality of your life and if you are choosing in a way that reflects the unconscious motivation that’s been building over the past several decades you have little chance of being peaceful. Forget chasing happiness. Forget avoiding sorrow. Do you have space for contentment?
Santosha is one of the niyamas of the yoga sutras. This is not a passive task of accepting terrible things. This is an active exploration of your thoughts, how they relate to your mood, and how your awareness can be used to change how you think. Your thoughts are habits. You can change them. When I first started getting into the teachings of yoga beyond the physical, this was one that struck me as particularly odd. You can watch your thoughts, you can manipulate them. It never occurred to me this was possible. When you think about it, it makes sense. You’re the only one in there. Why wouldn’t you be able to make it the way you want it?
The older I get the less patience I have with platitudes. There is an interesting dichotomy in building a yoga business, because it’s a business, but what we’re selling is health, wellness, wellbeing, introspection, evolution. How do you put a price on that? And for those who are making a living doing this, how do you justify charging for techniques that could change a life in profound ways? What do you call it to let people know what they’ll be getting when they join you for a class? You call it Yoga for Happiness. Yoga for Relaxation. Yoga for Your Highest and Best Self. Because how else can you condense 6,000 years of information into a workshop title?
Ultimately those of us who teach have a skill others want or need. We value that skill and require others to value it in the way we value things in this society: with money. That way we can maintain a certain quality of life for ourselves and our families. When you’re ready to expand your understanding of yourself through these profound teachings, find a teacher and create discipline. When you’re developing your inner eye, gradually understand that your inner guide will know what’s best for you. But in order to benefit from that guide, you have to learn which voice is the one that knows. Because there are many layers of thought. Sit and listen. When you have a line to that guide, then it won’t matter so much what others think. You’ll be able to decide in a way that lends real quality to your life.