Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Contentment, blogging, and three things.

I was in my yoga class the other day when I heard my teacher bring up the topic of contentment

--otherwise known as Santosha.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hopelessly drawn to the idea of contentment. The mere word makes me go soft inside, and I immediately think of an existence without all my worries. I think of calmness and ease—two qualities that I have to work hard for—because the truth is, I am one of those people that gets a certain vision in my head of how things are ‘supposed’ to go; and I get comfortably attached to that vision. I like to plan out things in my head—creative and noncreative-- and then without realizing it, I want life to happen the way I plan it.

Does all this sound like a sanitized version of controlling behavior?

Ok. I own that.

Although I think I’m getting better.

My yoga practice—which was deepened by my 200 hour teacher training experience--has been a total game-changer in my life.

On this evening, while I listened to Shannon begin the class with a brief discussion of contentment, I had one thought inside the darkened, heated room.

“Ahh…this is why I come to my mat.”

I don’t practice yoga with the goal of achieving certain postures (called asanas) or for the strong, fit body which I do appreciate, the reason I practice vinyasa yoga is because it’s one the of the ways I nourish my soul.

It’s the meditative feeling I get from my synchronized breath and movement.

But even more.

I’m fascinated by Patanjali’s eight limbed path, a way of living that adds another dimension to what happens on my yoga mat.

The topic of contentment— is part of the Niyamas—five guidelines that have to do with the relationship we have with our Self.

I think of the Niyamas as a chance to be curious about myself and to become more self-aware.

So what did I hear that evening that I liked so much?

This beautiful description.

Santosha means pure contentment; it is the feeling that happens when we stop craving “things” we don’t have. It is the sensation of bliss that is possible when we stop believing that things outside ourselves--possessions, events, status-- will make us happy.

Contentment happens when we honor all our experiences--our joys and our struggles without needing to judge and label these. We accept our life joyfully, as it is right now.

Because we know that everything we need for happiness is already here, inside us.


Can you imagine waking up each day feeling this way? 

Because although I have fleeting glimpses into this version of contentment, I also realize how much I need to grow. And after this class I jotted down some thoughts on this topic and identified ‘red flags’ that move me away from contentment in my own daily life.

Maybe you can relate.

Three things that keep us from feeling contentment.

1.                “I’ll be happy when this happens…”

You can inject your own personal word into this sentence but it’s the mindset that is the point.

Personally, I’ve been noticing how often this sentence pops up in my head and I see it as an uncomfortable part of living in a house that’s considered a fixer upper.

What I’ve noticed is that living in a house that’s the focus of constant change and ‘beautifying’ gets me –too easily--into a state of dissatisfaction. For me, it’s the dark side of being a home improvement DIYer. You develop this keen set of eyes that immediately zero in on the ‘problems’ –eyes that habitually identify everything you dislike about your surroundings because it doesn’t fit your aesthetic vision.

 Truthfully, this is the part of living in our new home which makes me queasy. Sometimes I purposely step away from posting about my house projects because I need a break from that mindset. I don’t like it when I become too focused on nit-picking my house because it makes me feel ungrateful.

Again, this is just my experience, maybe you have a totally different view.

2.              Comparing ourselves to others with judgement.

This is another way we drift farther from contentment; whether you compare yourself and end up feeling worse, or use others to elevate yourself, making comparisons is just plain yuck behavior.

 And it has a powerful effect on our psyche.

On the yoga mat this is easy to identify; it happens when we look over and see someone getting into a physically difficult pose and feel instantly deflated because we can’t do it.

But I’ve discovered that the yoga mat is a metaphor for what happens in real life. And we can catch ourselves making similar comparisons during our day.

I do this with blogging; I notice that too much blog hopping on designer blogs makes me feel discouraged. Instead of inspiring me it feels depleting. In fact, I recently questioned whether I want to keep blogging about my house projects period, because there’s something that happens when you share your projects on a blog. You become acutely aware of how long things take to finish. And for me, there’s a sense of everything being in slow motion when I’m posting about a project. Suddenly I’m aware of the number of days I’ve been working on something, and I’m sure it’s because I’m seeing so many amazing bloggers/designers begin and finish projects in record times. Even though I realize it’s like comparing apples and oranges—I don’t even consider mine a design blog per se, it does feel distorting.

3.              Perfectionism—the one red flag that seems pretty obvious.

The more we’re fixated on achieving perfectionism at something, the more at risk we are of feeling discontented...disenchanted…self-critical, you pick the word. Without realizing it, this is another red flag that affects the creative things I do. My photography is one area that I get relentlessly picky about and this often leads me to actually postpone my blog posts. I’m just too dissatisfied with the shots I’ve taken.

It really is a slippery slope: the struggle to have high expectations in our work and creative endeavors, while maintaining a sense of contentment that is NOT attached to our (latest) finished project.

Do you know what I mean?

I always love to hear what you think.
What do you do that keeps you from feeling contented? 


I'm sharing this post with my friends at:

Thoughts of Home on Thursdays


Simply LKJ said...

Love this post Leslie. I have become acutely aware of sheer contentment watching my 3s (almost 4s) this week at VBS. They take sheer delight in even the slightest things. They are too young to understand the comparison game just yet, so innocent. Comparison is something I am truly working on right now, in a lot of areas. A fellow blogger posted a statement that I feel rings so true...we can't possibly compare our beginning to someone's middle, nor someone's middle to someone's end. I have also learned over the past few years of reading blogs and looking at Pinterest, that in reality...something else in that person's life has had to give in order for "that" to be accomplished. May it be time spent with family, time to work out, vacation money...well, you get the picture. Looking at the "perfect" pictures we only get a tiny glimpse of can be messy outside the scope of the camera lens. We need not be so hard on ourselves.

Kim said...

Please don't stop blogging. I so enjoy your projects, decorating and words of wisdom. Spending too much time looking at pretty pictures of designer homes can definitely foster discontent, but then I look back to the early days of my marriage and realize how far we have come, how we raised our three sons in this house, and I am suddenly so thankful for our home.

Leslie Harris said...

Lauren thank you for leaving such a beautiful comment. You are so wise my friend


La Contessa said...

I think I am a bit OLDER then YOU.........
CONTENTMENT came for me recently I will be 56 in JULY.I would say in the last four years.........
I was driving down the freeway headed who knows where and I thought to MYSELF THIS IS IT!LIFE is not going to get any BETTER then this and lets HOPE NOT WORSE.I am LIVING MY LIFE.It is NOT the LIFE I IMAGINe for MYSELF AT ALL as a small child or growing up!BUT I AM HAPPY...............

I had a dear friend who had to move back to SOUTH AFRICA.She had to get rid of almost ALL her STUFF as no company was paying and she was divorcing.She was tossing her BALLET photos from all the years PAST.She was a PRIMA BALLERINA in another LIFE!!!!!!!I was sick to my stomach...........NO< I SCREAMED you can't do that!She answered me "IT's JUST STUFF" who needs it anyway I danced it and have that memory...........long story short she died at age 49 from CANCER.She left behind TWO little GIRLS............

I do not subscribe to ANY design BLOGS...........well there is one which I do not even OPEN as I find it all SO BORING!They all take photos from magazines and add their say.........I LIKE THE BLOGS THAT ARE REAL.PHOTOS TAKEN BY YOU!UP's and DOWN' you may have guessed I'm NOT A POTTERY BARN GAL.I HUNT for the TREASURES or I DID.............MY home has MORE meaning with things THAT SPEAK TO ME!!!

Don't worry CONTENTMENT will COME........YOU still have young children.......RIGHT?AND The fact YOU and YOUR DAD and YOUR husband are doing ALL the work is saving you TONS of MONEY!!!!!!!PATIENCE my FRIEND..........If you want to VENT we can chat on the PHONE!


Pier21cdn said...

I couldn't agree more on everything you wrote! It is why I couldn't continue my blog on our renovation, which is now going into year three. I have certainly found it hard to read about quicker and more glamorous reno's. Comparing what we have done to what others are doing just made me feel so not in the loop etc and always coming up short. Infact, I stopped reading gardening and reno blogs for almost a year, it was too depressing. I always enjoy your posts, you have such an honest voice and are so down to earth about everything. xo Patty/NS

Sarah said...

As I've come to expect from you, this post makes one think. I like the way your thought process works and lays everything out to be examined. Oddly, I live a very contented life, which always makes me wonder about myself. Our life isn't filled with a lot of activity or expectations. Perhaps because it's just the two of us, and we are both retired. I honestly don't "want" for things, though I give myself permission to acquire things that interest me. Projects for me have always been about the process, rather than the product. I love to do things with my hands, be it gardening, stitching, or writing. It's not the blooms, or the quilt, or the needlepoint pillow, or even the finished blog post that motivates me. It's the experience and the challenge of doing it! I like what Lauren said above about looking at perfect pictures. Photos don't always reflect reality. I know from my own blog. I can pick and choose what I want to show, crop and edit for the most appealing shot.

Thehouseofhampton said...

What keeps me from contentment is when I step out and away from myself. Every time i go back within, all is right with the world. When I don't listen to my inner voice, and don't honor myself, I'm lost.
My mat is the place that keeps me grounded. Breathing, gratitude. Okay...maybe a nespresso too.

Calypso In The Country said...

Love this post! I do have moments of contentment and when I am in that "zone" it just feels wonderful! I think guilt keeps me from feeling content more...guilt from not achieving constantly. I know I put WAY too much pressure on myself constantly to be everywhere and do everything. I need to just slow down. I do have perfection problems as has taken me almost a year of shopping and I still haven't picked out counter stools. No contentment there... Thanks for the insightful post and enjoy the rest of your week!

Karen said...

I love this post, but then I love all of your introspective posts. I have worked on all three points on your list and imagine I will continue to work hard on achieving the contentment that stays with someone day in and day out. I would miss your house projects and believe most of us don't pay too much attention to the timeline. I've recently stepped back from blogging and while I don't plan to officially quit, it feels good to take a prolonged break from time to time.
As you've stated so beautifully, life for most of us is a work in progress. Good days and bad. I try to find the good in every day, every event. Sometimes that easier than others.
Enjoy the rest of your week and thank you for your always entertaining posts.

Art and Sand said...

I reached contentment when we downsized to our little house. We had no space for tons of "things" so our lives became about our experience of living at the beach. People questioned our moved from a big house that was great for entertaining, but the first time they came over, I stood them in a spot in the hallway and told them to look in every direction. I said, "okay, now you've seen the house, let's hit the beach". After a walk on the beach, drinks while we watched the sunset and a cozy dinner, people understood.

Thanks for a lovely read this morning. Now we're off to the dermatologist so he can carve on Steve. Too bad our way of life isn't great for the skin!

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Your wonderful posts always make me think and examine myself, Leslie. I've gotten past most of the things that lead to discontent in life, but am still trying not to work so much. It isn't perfectionism, just necessary stuff as we transition to move. I am also having stress over members of my immediate family who are facing health is hard to be content when you are worrying so much. So right now, I am working hard to keep myself relaxed and as unstressed as possible. Going out on the boat gives me a break, so I do it as much as I can...the water and the beauty calm my spirit.
Hope you can have a relaxed summer, Leslie! xo

Laura said...

Leslie- I always feel nurtured and guided when I read your posts.
I know what you mean.
There is so much I could say here.
I am going to think on this.


You have so many gifts that we all get to enjoy.

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Leslie, this is a wonderful post. I am a very anxious person, I worry about EVERYTHING and everyone in my life. So this past year I made a decision that I have to force myself to stop trying to control everything and worrying all the time. I also decided that after stopping and starting for the last 3 years to get back to yoga 6 days a week. My instructor is fabulous and her method of teaching, her philosophy and her attitude keep me challenging myself and coming back. I feel the best mentally and physically I have felt in years.

As for contentment, I am for the most part content with my life, frankly I have never been a person that wants things for myself and I have always considered by life and me pretty blessed. I just have to learn to be content for what I want for everyone else in my life.

Thanks for your always thoughtful posts. I love reading blogs that make me think and ponder things in life.

Have a fabulous weekend.

p.s. I the first photo you?

Mumbai said...

I'm not sure if contentment make us happy because the human nature is not frugal and
strive after more.

Unknown said...

I loved reading this, I always do with your posts....thank you.

Tell me, if I have never done yoga before (which I haven't) what kind of yoga class would you recommend that I went to for my first one....or is that too hard to say? I've tried a couple over the years but they never felt right ie, I was a beginner & the class clearly wasn't for me, I left after 10 mins! X

Leslie Harris said...

Hello Simone, I’m so sorry I’m late getting back to you on your yoga question, I wanted to give it some thought before I answered and then I got distracted getting ready for a short trip we’re taking.
I think I know what you mean about not feeling a ‘good fit’ with those few yoga classes you tried. The yoga I practice is called Ashtanga vinyasa yoga. It’s basically a sequence of postures that are synchronized with a steady, deep breathing called ujjayi breath and this is the part that adds a meditative quality to the postures. When I first walked into the vinyasa class I found it really tough at first because the class was heated, and also I was pretty weak. Could barely hold a plank pose and had no real core muscles. And I had no idea that vinyasa yoga was known for its “flow” ---which just means that in the middle of class you do a few repetitions of poses at a quicker pace. The ‘flow’ portion doesn’t last long but in a heated (98 degrees) room it was definitely challenging for me. In the beginning I had to stop and rest a lot.
Are you thinking about trying out a few more classes? I do remember how confusing it all seemed in the beginning, I think I kept going back because of the teachers at this particular studio. A good teacher—makes all the difference I think.
The one thing I want to mention is that I always thought the way to get a strong body was in the gym but personally, I’ve never felt physically stronger. Yes, the gym visits with the weights are a wonderful supplement, but all the ‘holding’ of yoga poses has really changed my muscle tone—again there are all types of yoga and the only ones I’ve really experienced are vinyasa and yin yoga, which is for deep connective tissue and involves getting into poses and holding them for several minutes. That’s considered to be a restorative yoga and I found this helpful too. It all depends on what your needs are. I hope this helps Simone.

Hugs from SoCal,

Stonecropsister said...

Hi Leslie,
I love reading about finding contentment, dealing with stress, changing one's outlook. When I read about other women experiencing the same thoughts and feelings, it's always a lightbulb moment, and a gentle reminder that there are many souls out there that are trying to find their way through life when it's less than easy. For me, the one thing that overwhelms all sense of contentment is when I have so much to do for work, and it spills over to the weekend. When balance is threatened. When all that is in front of me is groceries, then watering flowers, then washing the car, then do the banking, then doing the laundry. My brother told me, "Nance - enjoy the days of employment. Have faith in the fact that you were a good employee, and will be wanted again. And when that happens, you will look back wistfully on your enforced time off and realize it was freedom to spend your afternoons as you please." I loved your post Leslie. xx Nancy

Sheepskinsandfairylights said...

Perfect read for me Leslie as i attended a Samatha Meditation class last night, which afterwards we discussed happiness, the word associated with feeling happy was contentment.
Thankyou for sharing! Xx

Ps.....feeling happy to be back in this blogging world after a tough few months :-) xx

karen@somewhatquirky said...

Contentment. The magnificent thing in life. My prayer for contentment is this: Thank you God for the way things ARE,RIGHT NOW. Say those last three words slowly and calmly.This is particularly important when I'm in a spot of mental anguish. I have fewer of those spots now that I'm not working, but unfortunately my husband has more. (His are based on fear of financial collapse.)

Of course contentment goes hand in hand with gratitude. I deal with my own "I want to get this done", "I'll be glad when", by understanding that I will always be in a state of transition with this kind of thing, because I like changing things. I like making things. I like doing these things. It's part of who I am. Sometimes I wonder if I delay things because there is some fun in the anticipation. Or perhaps I am lazy? Or perhaps I am enjoying doing something else in the meantime...
I too, share that feeling of why am I writing about home stuff when it's really so trivial and often trite.
Perfectionism can be a mind and joy killer, can't it?! My coping mechanism is this - I'll use golf as an example - once I reached the point where I could shoot in the 90's I decided to be content with the process. I could enjoy the time I golfed and didn't have to worry about not being better. I didn't want to "learn" more that I had to feel accountable for knowing and not achieving. Interesting that you obsess over the photography thing. I think your photography is beautiful. I hate to think that you let yourself get stymied by not appearing perfect. Keep in mind that it is possible that you enjoy eeking out every little bit of beauty in your photography. It's OK to want to do your best.
Thank you so much for writing this post! Your words are always so profound.

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