everyday contentment

eileen delehanty pearkes digs through piles of laundry & finds bliss

photo by will lew, www.willlew.com

I often dream of water. Water breaking up after a long hold in winter ice. Water rushing gently with me in a canoe, swaying across its current. Water pooling to rest, then tumbling downward again. Clear water. Weed-choked water. Burbling water. Deep blue, aquamarine, glacial-green, summer-brown, snow-melt white. Water takes many forms in my night wanderings. Always, the water is moving, changing and transporting itself, mirroring my own efforts toward self-realization. Always, and strangely enough, the water seems contented to be in whatever state it is. It moves with acceptance along a varied path.

When I wake to my daily world after these watery dreams, I am surprised to find myself lying on crisp cotton sheets, wrapped in the dry dimness of dawn. I realize that the water in my dreams has carried me on a pleasing current that feels like my true nature, like the most authentic movement of a soul. I rise from my bed to look out the window, where the Kootenay River passes by in the valley below. The river seems unperturbed. It even seems uninterested in its own passage. There is a sameness and reliability in it that suggests nothing has changed through the night. Yet I know that the water flowing by several hours ago has moved on, and that fresh water has come to fill its place. This constant change happens whether I am paying attention or not.

In Yoga Mala, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois speaks of a few different types of happiness, one of which envelops both constancy and change. He points out the difference between momentary happiness that depends on a particular circumstance and of another happiness he calls samtosa. The latter is a state of contentment that relies on no particular situation. Samtosa, unlike the happiness, joy or elation that I am more familiar with, is a constant state of mind. The second of the five niyamas defined in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, samtosa does not depend on being in love, winning the lottery or reuniting with an old friend. It does not require that a meal be prepared perfectly, that the sun be warm on one’s shoulders or that the gift one asks for is in fact the one received. No matter what is happening in life, the state of contentment is possible…

Eileen Delehanty Pearkes practises Ashtanga Yoga and lives in Nelson, BC.  She is the author of The Geography of Memory and co-author of The Inner Green.
Eileen’s exploration of the yamas and niyamas will continue in the next issue as she interprets aparigraha (to take what is necessary).

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