The second niyama is santosha: contentment or satisfaction. This is a pretty easy one; we can all understand why it’s good to be content. Santosha means looking inside yourself for your happiness instead of to external things, and being satisfied with where you are and what you have no matter what’s going on around you.
One of my dear friends has a motto: “It is what it is.” Good or bad, every situation or problem is the way it is: you can’t change it. It’s raining; your boss is in a bad mood; the coffee shop is closed for renovations. We can’t control these things. So my friend reminds herself, “It is what it is,” and accepts the situation, which allows her to move forward and make better decisions. Over the years I’ve seen her make it through many a tough time with grace, kindness, and humor.
Another friend has a similar approach: she reminds herself that she’s only responsible for her own actions. When the boss is being a jerk or the coffee shop is closed, we can’t change that – the only thing we can control is the way that we ourselves act. So do we yell at our boss, cause a big scene? Or do we find a way to respond with serenity? After all, we don’t know what happened to the boss this morning. Maybe his kid is sick and he’s acting angry because he’s worried. That’s no excuse for taking it out on us, but when we try to see things from his perspective, we can react with compassion. We’re not responsible for his bad behavior, but just because he’s behaving badly, that doesn’t mean that we have to do the same.
Practicing santosha helps us to stay calm and balanced. There’s no reason for these external things to affect us: we are who we are no matter what’s going on. It is what it is. I can’t control the world, but I can control how I respond to the world. I am enough in myself to be content.