How many times do we put off our happiness? How many times do we look back to happier times in our lives which are draped in nostalgia? We look forward to the weekend, to the next lunch date, the next holiday. We project our hopes and dreams on to some elusive future where everything will be perfect or we look back to our childhood, our wedding day, a time where we realised in hindsight, we once were happy. It may be that we try to find happiness in escapism through buying new clothes, going out for wonderful meals, enjoying a good bottle of wine and watching the latest movies. There is nothing wrong with these pursuits but are they really the most effective tools for lasting happiness? If we look deeper, it may be that we each need to carve out a life which we no longer feel we need to escape from.
Happiness is like a balloon drifting just in front or just behind us and we keep trying to grasp hold of the ribbon and bring it closer. We chase the balloon but are also mindful that is delicate and could pop at any time, our dreams of happiness vanishing into thin air. What if that balloon was held in our grasp all along, we just had not realised it?
The eight limbs of Yoga as described by Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras provide a pathway towards peace and happiness. The second limb Niyamas consider how we deal with ourselves in the world around us. One of the Niyamas, Santosha or contentment teaches us that beneath the fluctuations of our everyday lives there exists an endless well of peace and harmony, we just need to know how to tap into it. Even more encouraging is that this contentment can be found amidst the challenges of our everyday lives, here in the now of this very moment!
This is liberating because it means the search is over! What we seek through external means lays within. Happiness is our natural state of being and the tools of Yoga can help us to uncover it.
We can stretch and feel better with each breath in our practice on the mat. We can let go of grasping for things and feel the contentment that comes from feeling we have enough. We can focus on the horizon as we walk and take in scent and sound in a moving meditation, the birdsong a gentle symphony to our connection with nature.
The eight limbs provide us with an arsenal of tools which allow the radiance of our lives to overflow from our hearts and give us the inner resolve to meet adversity with equanimity knowing that joy and pain are a part of life and that our natural state of happiness is not dependent on the shifting tide of emotions and experiences which make up our lives. It runs deeper. We run deeper.
We can choose to be happy now, amidst the bills, care of family and loved ones, whilst weeding the garden, whilst working through a ‘To-Do’ list, because this is the life lived now. Our birth right is happiness, comprised of moving moments of wonder if we take the leap inside and tap into our true nature.
By Emma Conally-Barklem
First published in Om Yoga & Lifestyle magazine August 2021