I was driving along in the car the other day, musing, and it suddenly struck me that this was the best year ever. It's a pretty big call, but as I catalogued through other years that had some pretty rad highlights, the missing sensation was being constantly in a state of contentment Now i'm not talking about the Facebook everything is perfect on my page kinda happy. Just sweetly content. A consistent flatline of great. In Patanjali's yoga sutras, this is known as santosha, and it is a state which is for me a key indicator of being middle path.
I thought about what the factors were that were contributing to that feeling of santosha, and a few things have happened this year that have had a certain alchemy, I don't think these are exclusive to me, I think they are a blueprint for what makes many of us feel in a place of harmony and equanimity. I sat and thought about what the breakdown looked like so I could share, and also show the elements that have worked for me. We all have a different way of getting there, but here is what I came up with for me as my santosha highway:
1. I'm working for myself, doing something I love: so we hear this again and again, if you do something you love you never work blah blah. I've often had jobs I really enjoyed working for others, but always was thinking there was something else I wanted to do. I wanted to be creative, and not be fixed in one place, the need to roam is strong in me. Work you love alone isn't a remedy for contentment, but it is a big part as we spend so much of our adult life working, and it for defs helps to enjoy it. All work has its drawbacks - all of it. (Refer to the shit sandwich journal post) but again, with equanimity on your side, you just take the good and the not so good as part of one package and keep on opening the layers of your surprise parcel.
2. I' m not stressed about money: ok, first world person alert. I realise I am ridonqulously lucky to live in Tasmania and to have assets that I (collectively) own. But for the last two decades i've worked furiously hard to pay mortgages, and contribute my share to the family coffers. At times we've had some serious financial stress, which kept me white knuckled and roped into working those jobs that would pay me what I needed to survive. That feeling of being trapped by assets and responsibilities is a real happiness killer, and if you aren't massively loving your work, the 40 plus hours a week becomes a dominating theme of entrapment. Having assets doesn't make you happy. There is plenty of evidence to support that. What has made me happy is not having to work in the type of corporate jobs I was continually doing, where often creativity, innovation and agility was unable to be prioritised within large bureaucracies, Again, I am EXTREMELY grateful for every opportunity i've had, but I recognised some time ago these work environments weren't where I was going to do my thing, big style. Being able to work on projects that align with my values, with people that I am stoked to be in service to, PLUS more importantly having time to work on creating my own products, that is where the sparkle is.
3. I'm doing a daily spiritual practice: two years in of consistent practice, I am beginning to really see the subtle shifts. Daily meditation, chanting, and asana practice shifts your sense of balance and wellness, without doubt. It means Sure, I have to get up early so I can fit it all in, I don't always love getting up in the chilly winter months, but I just note that I am sleepy and warm and that's impermanent and haul my ass out of bed and start my practice and I feel better. I feel more connected with everything and everyone, I feel lighter and gentler and calmer and strangely its the long term results that make me more motived. After a lifetime of wanting quick fixes, I know that this path isn't about rewards or pats on the head from another, it is about internal happiness, and having the god, guru and self being within me, whatever happens outside.
4. I'm spending time with loved ones: Working from home means I get to hang out more with John McGee, who is my preferred human to hang with. We just mooch around with our laptops like little remote worker satellites and at certain points of our orbit we collide at the coffee machine, over lunch and on the couch. This is nice, I love him and I love the simple happiness being with John brings. I'm with our dogs all day, often snuggled in bed while i'm working. After two years of being separated for long periods by work from both John and the dogs, this is not being taken for granted. I get to spend more time with the Lady Squire, and as she is in her fierce dotage, I want to make the most of her daily constructive criticism ha ha. I've horribly neglected buddies my through constant work and travel, so I can now shovel the love their way. But i'm also just more loving with everything. Not being tired, cranky, overworked, stressed, feeling separate and behaving like it was all someone else's fault makes me a much nicer human. Seeing everyone I meet as an extended part of me reminds me to be kind and loving and forgiving. Seeing the world as a place where I can do selfless service to other people makes for bountiful opportunities for kindness and caring. And that makes for santosha.
5. Living in the now: this is something that it took a big long dose of yoga to really get through my brain. Its one of those phrases, like letting go, that seems actually impossible and makes you want to punch on when people tell you to do it. By not worrying about what is coming next, where my next client will come from, about all of the things that may happen, i'm not constantly creating anxiety and drama over imaginary future events. I have a simple question I ask myself when I start to do these old patterns: what can I do about this right now? If the answer is nothing, then I have clear guidance to get on with whatever it is I am working on. The amount of time this has freed up is extreme, and because i'm not working in a job im looking to the end of constantly, of living in situations that i'm wishing away, i'm more appreciative of what is happening at the end of my nose. I just accept that whatever I need will come along, and it could be anything. I know, faith, its very unscientific, but it always works out, as by not wanting to know or control what that something will be, whatever comes is perfect.
Each one of these circumstances have happened alone and in tandem my whole life, but it has been the culmination of them in 2018 that has made for this annus santoshis that i'm experiencing. All along I was working towards this as how I wanted to live, but I thought I would never get there. It took a little leap of faith to believe that if I did set up on my own for work, focus on my writing, and start living da vida bhakti it would be ok. And everything else just fell into line as soon as I loosened my grip on making it all work. To get here, you can work toward each of the pieces, but the final piece is for sure confidence in the surrender, knowing that you know what that looks and feels like, and even if it seems a little crazy, that you do it anyway. Namaste your way and let me know what your santosha highway looks like.