On Santosha In Light Of Nostalgia

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At the change of the season, I am flooded with waves of nostalgia. I feel a vague and persistent melancholy, a longing for a different time and place, one that might not have ever existed, yet I still dream of it and miss it deeply.

The scents of each new season evoke memories from childhood and adolescence. When the weather shifts, I recollect moments from schooldays past. Often they are sad memories, lonely ones from times of wondering and wandering. I question why I would miss such times, but nostalgia isn’t very logical. There’s nothing quite real about it. It’s a jumble of distorted fact and fiction, smiles and tears.

Nostalgia sounds like Neko Case’s strong plaintive voice and the crying of a pedal steel guitar. It is carried on the breeze and the nip of frost. It hits you with a wave of solitude even amongst a crowd. It transports me to a place of terrifying vulnerability, like being a waifish¬†14 year old girl in full head-to-toe DvF at a new school, in a Yankee state miles away from family or any sense of belonging. It takes me to dark evenings from my college years, on back steps of ramshackled Victorians, waiting, wishing, sitting quietly with a Spirit and a sense of expectancy.

As I reflect on nostalgia, I realize it is one of my greatest weaknesses and I know I am merely one of many who is swayed by its guiles. Nostalgia swiftly and completely takes you away from the now. It stokes dying flames in the heart and twists riddles in the head and suddenly you don’t know quite where you are and you cannot even see just how wonderful this very time and place actually is.

At its essence, nostalgia is the polar opposite of contentment, santosha, one of the five niyamas or restraints in Patanjali yoga.¬†Nostalgia pulls you away from the present moment; it is wistful and desirous. But santosha fully embodies, embraces and accepts the present moment, grateful for its “enough-ness.” It does not want anything more or less, anything future or past – it is full and happy with what is. To practice contentment, one has to be present and conscious – there is no way around it.

The dreamer and romantic in me gets swept up with seasonal nostalgia, but the yogic reflector within brings me back. I remember that santosha, just like asana, is a practice. It requires attention, repetition, and a continued awareness. It asks for cultivation and then, with practice, you are sometimes rewarded by the experience, however brief, of full conscious acceptance and gratitude for this very moment in all its sweetness and beauty.

What a gift! This day. This moment. This very life.

 

Love and Blessings,

Frances

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