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Practice leads to contentment off the mat

If you stick with it practicing yoga can lead to a life of contentment. But how does doing poses lead to contentment? Let’s explore a recent experience I had which will hopefully illustrate the process.

I spent last week vacationing on Lake Michigan with six adults, six small children and one pretty big dog. There were 14 humans in total and at times the house was very loud and hectic. It’s a given when you have a bunch of small children together someone is going to be upset and crying about something. You took my toy! I want the pink plate! Stop touching me! Etc, etc.

(Above) My amazing mother-in-law trying out her headstand on the beautiful beach near our house.

I have been on similar vacations over the years and found them exhausting (and sometimes infuriating (just being honest)). But this year it all seemed different for me. I wasn’t nearly as exhausted or annoyed by all the chaos. I dare say I thoroughly had fun and enjoyed myself!

What was the difference between this and past years?

In past years there were less children on the vacation so it’s safe to say it was less hectic. This leads me to believe that it was me who was different, not them.

This year I witnessed myself many times starting to feel annoyed and in the moment decided to refocus my attention on a task, such as helping get lunch for all the kids or straightening a mess. I decided to be useful and busy which pulled me away from the magnetism of annoyance. Then, while accomplishing the lunch task, for example, I reminded myself about my commitment to finding contentment through practice. I felt happier! The focus on the task and the contentment reminder is what brought the contentment.

My yoga practice taught me to cultivate contentment.

Through the practice of yoga I learned how to observe myself, make an educated guess as to a possible solution and then execute that solution. I did this through the years of practice of observing my own body, my own breath–cultivating a relationship and watching it change over the years.

Some might say this is just the process of growing up. But I say that for me to evolve in my thinking this way is nothing short of miracle. In the early days of my practice I could not be content unless I was practicing asana EVERY day. While on my recent vacation there was no physical space or time for a dedicated practice. Instead, I had to observe my mind with my mind.

Contentment is not something that happens accidentally. Contentment of the heart is what occurs when you practice reaching for it. Through practice it is possible to find contentment even when annoyed, angry or full of sorrow. Isn’t this what we all want?

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