By Sarah Halweil, February, 2018
For the most part, I love my life. Sure, I go back and forth on what could have been or what might be. But incessant worrying about past decisions can lead to feelings of hopelessness and depression, and excess worry about the future can cause havoc. Psychologists have shown that indecision causes anxiety which can lead to depression.
Science tells us that if one’s basic needs—food, water, clothing, shelter, and companionship—are met, then contentment, as evidenced by brain activity, is present. Anything extra, they say, doesn’t increase happiness (that is, the brain activity doesn’t change much). The search for happiness/contentment is ancient.
For me, though, a morning sit of 10 minutes and a bit of asana have a profound effect on my day. Time spent in nature looking at beauty and listening to ambient sounds is also therapeutic. I also love to ask myself the questions “What am I passionate about? What do I like to do? Am I doing it?” No rush, but a few adjustments may need to be made.
The bottom line is, if we practice something that prevents us from obsessing over the “what ifs,” then we’ll get better at it. We get good at what we practice. How many times do we need to hear this?! Roshi Joan Halifax says, “Now is the time. Appreciate your life.” Even if you didn’t one minute ago, now is the time. (She adds that being kind and helping others in some sweet way is part of a surefire way to be happy.)
Life is so short. We have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) because we think something else may make us happy. But missing out on what is right in front of us is actually a shortcut to discontent. If we are loved and give love, if we work hard and have fun, then whatever it is that we have chosen is the perfect thing to be doing.
Here’s a recipe for contentment:
- Practice asana without judgement and force.
- Sit for a set time each day, and just listen and feel.
- Become familiar with the yamas and niyamas.
- Do good work.
- Help others.
This recipe yields space that has been log-jammed by physical or mental agitation, including agitation caused by worrying about the past or the future. It also reveals the answers to the questions “Am I happy?” “How did I get here?” and “What choice should I make?”
I try to live by the words of Nkosi Johnson, an activist from South Africa who was born HIV positive and died at age 12, “Do all you can with what you have, in the time you have, in the place you are.”