Santosha~ Contentment is the second Niyama in the 8 limbs of Yoga We all would love to come to this place of contentment, in the yoga philosophy, otherwise known as Santosha. I believe that for the most part, I have found this place within my life and it all began the day I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
Although this might sound odd to most, but it’s when something throws you off or pulls the rug out from under you, a series of events begin to happen. This series of events can either take you to a place of contentment or a place of fear. There are always two paths one can choose to take, I chose contentment, however, at that time I had no idea that was the path I was about to embark upon.
Santosha involves the practice of gratitude and joyfulness offers, attempting at your very best to maintaining calm no matter what, keeping equanimity through all that life offers or even throws at you. This state of mind does not depend on external causes, whether physical, mental or an act of God.
~So how did I come to my Santosha~
After I was diagnosed, I called the National MS Society, I was on a mission, I started my first MS walk team, began an online support group and pretty much surrounded myself with only those who understood what it was like to have MS. Apparently all of this external keeping myself active, surrounding myself with a lot of MS only activities kept a very strong focus on this disease which now began to define me. I went every year having a relapse on my diagnosis date and sunk into the pity party that most know as the MS blues. I kept on going though, each year doing the MS walk, being a team captain, raising money, going to conferences, running my online support group, met wonderful people, however it was all about Multiple Sclerosis. I had no idea who Lisa was, if someone asked me to define myself or tell them about me, back then, I’d have said, “I’m a mom, I’m so and so’s girlfriend, I’m an ex wife, I have MS. I had no hobbies, no outside interests, I was a book with blank pages.”
It wasn’t until November 2007 that something in me decided it was time to change something, I didn’t know what it was, but something had to give. I didn’t feel ‘balanced’ and I don’t mean that in a physical way. I started a search for a yoga studio, figuring this will help with my balance and strength, little did I know just how much it would help, and so much more than physically. Once again, I had no idea what was in store for me once I sat down on that yoga mat.
I sat on my mat for the first time in January 2007 and haven’t stopped doing yoga since. Something happened that day, I can’t quite put it into words, but there was a shift of energy, there was ‘balance’, not physical balance, the balance I found came from deep within me. There it was that moment, my aha moment, I found out that inner peace, balance and empowerment doesn’t come from outside of us, it comes from deep inside of us. We can do everything for everyone, raise money, educate others, totally give of ourselves, however if you don’t discover who you are, if you don’t find peace within, there can’t be contentment. Without that state of mind all of your actions are not coming from a place of ‘gratitude and joyfulness’, it’s coming from a place of fear, you’re on auto pilot. Finding out who you are, taking care of you, before you start helping others is of utmost importance. What’s that saying? “You can’t help anyone else until you help yourself first.” How true that is.
In August of 2008 I had my first Healing and Moving for a Cure 3rd party fundraiser, named after two of my friends mom’s who passed away of complications of MS, with the money raised from this fundraiser, we started a program at the National MS Society’s Long Island Chapter for home health aide assistance, This program is called The Kathleen Valachi~Catherine Caldarella Memorial Fund Home Health Aide Assistance Program. We have had this fundraiser now every year since 2008 and look forward to repeating it every year until the day nursing homes are no longer used in lieu of homecare for those living with MS.
I am still an active member and team captain of the NMSS LI Chapter and collectively my team and I have raised over $50,000 over the past 8 years since I’ve been diagnosed and all money raised during the MS walk also goes towards my program within our chapter. Since being diagnosed I have been a patient advocate for Biogen Idec and have spoken at several MS informational events, bringing real life, “how to live well with MS”, stories to those just like myself.
In June of 2010 after 3 years of taking yoga as a practitioner my friend and yoga teacher, Laurie Ahlemann , felt that I was ready and recommended that I enter into her teacher training program at Long Island Yoga School, and study to earn my 200 hour yoga teaching certification. I had no intention of teaching, I went in just to deepen my practice, so I thought.
I am very proud to say that I completed my training, and have since started a Free Yoga for MS program. This program takes place at Simplicity Yoga Studio at Kings Park and Absolute Yoga Studio in Woodbury with an evening program being worked on as well at another location, soon to be announced. Without the generosity of these studio owners, Rosanne Sihler, Leslie Luft and all of those who give of themselves by volunteering to teach this program wouldn’t be possible.
When I graduated my teacher training in June, my attitude towards not wanting to teach had shifted, like so many other things along this journey. What began as a ‘deepening’ of my practice took on a new life. This teacher training was a gift to me, how does one repay a gift? You gift it back…My gift back is to bring yoga back to those living with MS, like myself, to show them that if they too believe that they can, that anything is possible.
Today if someone says, Lisa, how do you define yourself? I’m a happy empowered, balanced woman, who practices yoga (not just physically, it’s a way of life), reads, loves to laugh, has a great sense of humor, finds it very rewarding to help others. I have 3 children, one of whom is in college, I happen to have MS and I’m doing great!
I truly believe if those we bring yoga to, within the MS Community, can spend just a moment on their mat, like I did 4 years ago and sit quietly, even if it’s just to breathe, leaving the MS outside that door of the studio and find out who they are, if they can go within and maintain calm, if they can somehow find it within themselves to keep equanimity through all that life throws at them at one time or another, then perhaps, if only for that hour on the mat, they too, will find their Santosha
We have all heard or used that saying “Home is where the heart is”.
Recently I’ve had to really delve deeply into this, and search within my heart for answers to many questions. Am I where I’m supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing and am I happy doing it the way that I am? Now many people would immediately think, oh she must be talking about her relationship, however they couldn’t be further from the truth, but when something tugs at your insides and you’re not sure you are where you should be, it can hurt every relationship in your life, including the most intimate ones and that’s when it’s most important to look inside.
I’ve spent the last 4 months discovering different things, experiencing Yoga in different ways and trying hard to adjust to a new way of learning as well as teaching, and maybe this is where my conflict lies, I’ve been “trying”.
Shouldn’t something that is right come naturally to us? Yes, there are challenges and moments of panic, the ego kicks in and makes you think that you can’t, however this I truly believe isn’t the case here. Sometimes when doors are opened, it’s for a reason. Maybe it’s so you can walk through them specifically so you can experience something new and different? Maybe it’s even to just show you what else is available to you so that you can decide what road or path it is you want or need to take? Maybe it’s part of the lesson. Maybe it’s just another way to help one recognize their authentic self? Whatever the ‘maybe’ might be, in this case, as in every case, it’s definitely a lesson, there is a teacher or two involved (one of them being yourself) and as always whether the experience has been all good, all bad or a combination of both, something very valuable has been learned.
I have also spent the last 2 months struggling with a decision and even more so over the last month over what to do with this conflict I’m having. I’m not a ‘quitter’, I don’t even like the power that is given to that word and I also struggle with who gives that word it’s power. Is it me, is it my ego or is it my fear of those I love most judging me for what they don’t understand the decision I need to make and they refer to it as ‘quitting’ not understanding that I don’t see it exactly that way? To help me work through some of this I’ve asked my nearest and dearest friends for advice, all of whom have graced me with their wisdom and their understanding. I’ve looked to my mentors and those I respect and I’ve been so lucky to not have any one of them to tell me what it is I should do. Not one of them said “you should do this or that”.
I was given very good advice, “Lisa, I think you need to get back on your mat, not for anyone else, but for yourself”, how true that is…I miss who I feel I was before this venture that I took on, I miss the calm that was me.
I was told, “look into your heart, it will never lead you wrong, Sometimes we fear doing the right thing for ourselves because ego puts a different view on it. When clear and sitting in your heart center you will have no doubt of what u need to do. Trust yourself.”
And finally the very thing that really made me smile because it echoed the first advice that I was given and deep inside of my heart I knew it to be true; “Get back to your practice. Get back to you.You most certainly will not regret this decision. I am sure and so are you when your ego isn’t shouting obscene things at you.” and finally just a few moments ago I had lunch with someone I highly respect and even though my decision was pretty much already made, I still needed and wanted her wisdom about what it was I was feeling and her thoughts on the choices I have, to either stick it out or let it go. Her soft ears while she listened to me and her advice as always was wonderful, she said and I’m going to try to get this right..”if you aren’t finding flow; that if you aren’t able to build upon what have already learned, that it’s not helping you to refine your teaching, then your decision to leave is the right one.” She actually said that much more eloquently than I just did, but then again, she’s awesome. 🙂
How crazy is our Ego that we allow it to try to control us, we are aware that it’s happening and yet we still allow it to try?
I guess growth and awareness is knowing that ego is doing this and instead of allowing Ego to get away with it, we do become that change we want to see, we recognize who’s doing that talking, we overcome that fear and make the choice that ego tries desperately to stop us from making, the one we fear everyone will judge us because of.
We say, you know what, this is what I need, me and it doesn’t matter what the rest of the world thinks, the best I can hope for is that those who I love, those I am close to will understand that this is what I need and this is what serves me best and will make me happy and bring my Santosha (contentment) back…
I need to be home, home is on my mat, where I began, for myself and not because I have to but because I want to.
I was recently asked to read a book, part of my required reading, The Mirror of Yoga by Richard Freeman. I started to read it about a month ago long before I was told that I had to start reading and long before I was told I had to finish it before our February meeting, I was also asked as homework to tell what it is I got from this book, I’ll get to that in a moment.
I picked up my book where I left off a month ago and the very first page that I read began with a story about a man who kept digging a hole for water for his well, and when he didn’t reach it he moved onto a new hole, trying again and each time never giving it time before moving along to begin digging again. Richard explains that we often do this with Yoga and in life as well.
He says “So it is with the restless ego pursuing yoga, seeking ornaments for an improved self-image and new ways of feeling better, but avoiding the true facts of life. When the school or practice becomes difficult-which is precisely the entry point into reality-it is at this crisis point that you really have to drop your pretenses and keep digging deeper into the experience. However, all too often it is right at this juncture that we tend to give up the practice. We move on to a “better” teacher or a “more interesting” school, rather than sticking with it and investigating the inner work that is the purpose of the school and the teachings in the first place. Of course if the teacher (or school) has not done his or her work of sticking with the practice as the point of difficulty, then is could be time to find a different teacher, and this discriminative awareness-knowing when to stick with it and when to move on- is part of what a good yoga practice teaches.” Richard Freeman
After reading this paragraph, on this page, I sat in amazement; first let me tell you first thought, Universe made it so I read this right now, while I was in all of this turmoil of not knowing what to do, then I thought about the passage. Am I avoiding the true facts of life, has the school or practice just become too difficult so I’m giving up and saying okay let me move onto a “better” teacher or a more “interesting” school? I listened to my heart and inside of me, not from my ego, I heard a voice say, no Lisa, He is a good teacher and their school is interesting, the work is not become so difficult that you can’t handle it, it’s just this simple, it’s not a good fit and you are discriminatively aware of this, it’s time to move on and “this is what a good yoga practice teaches.”..you’ve learned well.
Answer to the homework assignment, what did you get from reading this book? So far, I’ve gotten that what I’m feeling is legitimate and the choice I’m making to leave this program is the right one. As for finishing the book, I will be finishing the book, not because it’s required of me to do so, but solely because I want to, Richard Freeman is an inspiring writer and I’m sure a great teacher who I will not get the pleasure of meeting in February during our training now that my decision has been made…another time I’m sure. “When the time is right, the teacher will appear.” 🙂
I have learned so much in the last year and a half, I’ve made new friends, lost some and then found our way back. I’ve met new people, done different types of yoga and read all kinds of books. So many experiences, that have been part of this amazing journey and I’m grateful for every minute. Each day, every minute, every step is a lesson and every single person you meet along the way, IS a teacher and within every experience, whether you deem it good or bad, IS a lesson…embrace it. Never regret…acknowledge it, be grateful for it because it molds us to be the person that we become, the person we keep becoming.
I am so grateful for all of you, my friends and all of the experiences each and every one of you have brought to me, that I know you will continue bringing to me, as well as I am grateful for the journey we are on and look forward to continuing on it with you…
With this, I’m going to take that step back onto my mat for not because I have to but because I want to…
Going back to taking care of me and going inwards
To the teacher(s) and the practice that I know and love;
I’m going to keep walking through the amazing doors that have opened for me and enjoy the view;
I’m going to hope that those I love support and understand why
I’m going to reunite with my friends who I dearly miss….
I’m going to continue my journey and help those with MS through the gift of Yoga as it was gifted to me
One day I will get my 500 hour Teacher Certification but for now…
I’m going home…..where my heart is
200 hour Certified Yoga Teacher
Long Island Yoga School