Cultivate Detached Contentment
True happiness comes from within. It is a mindset. It is an intentional observation of ourselves and the purposeful reaction we have to the countless events that occur constantly around our entire being. Paradoxically, one does not need to be happy to exude true, deep-rooted happiness. True happiness is more closely related to acceptance and being content with what is. Happiness is knowing that we do not know, and will never know, what will be and what should have been. When we relinquish control, we find acceptance, we find contentment and, ultimately we find happiness.
As we navigate our way through this life, there are countless external sources attempting to dictate what we need to be content. We are told to constantly and consistently acquire a seemingly infinite array of things and stuff - each one promising to bring us to the plane of ultimate joy. We see advertisements marketing smiling faces and pure happiness - if only we were to acquire and own that thing, and then the next, and then the next.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali describe Santosha, a complete acceptance of what is, not what we hope to be or to have had happened. Santosha is a commitment and a practice much like other checkpoints along the journey of enlightenment. We cannot help to question what could have been or what we could have done differently to shape the past or to navigate the future because your ego likes to persuade you, the underlying observer, that you have complete control over these events. When we come to accept the truth, that nothing is in our control, we seek out methods for bringing about a life lived in Santosha.
One of these methods, and the last of the five Yamas, is Aparighaha - translating to non-hoarding, non-attachment or non-grasping. We, as humans, are coded to desire the social acceptance of our peers while our ego attempts to frighten us with fear of non-belonging. In modern society, social acceptance and belonging have been created, packaged, marketed and sold back to us in infinite forms and mediums that we are told we must acquire. I am not only referring to tangible goods as items that are marketed, desired and sought after. Also marketed to us are certain thought patterns, emotional states and relationships that are deemed healthy and good - to not have them or to have the opposite of them means an individual is broken and does not belong to the societal whole - causing our energy balance to teeter toward fear, sadness and anger.
We all ride the ceaseless wheel of consumerism and are susceptible to the barrage of marketing that promises happiness and joy, yet Aparighaha allows us to become more self-aware and to exhibit deep-rooted behaviors that are truthful to our enlightened state. When we intentionally practice non-attachment we lean over the side, glimpse past the edge of the wheel and gaze out over an infinite ocean of opportunity for self-study and growth.
Though none are easy, I would argue that Aparighaha must occur in steps or phases, each one of them a practice and learned behavior. They may be practiced in parallel or by intentionally focusing on one at a time to increase odds of mastery. Of these phases, the simplest to understand would be the non-hoarding of material goods. I would follow this with the non-attachment to thoughts, emotions, events and relationships. Last, and certainly the most challenging is non-grasping of life itself - eradicating a paralyzing fear of death that can, at times, dictate the conservative choices we make throughout our lives.
To find Aparighaha in all of its forms challenges the perception of ourselves that is injected by society and by lived-experience into our entire being. What is self? In much of modern society we are lead to believe that there is no self without the items that we can objectively call our own. We are so closely entwined with our thoughts and emotions from birth, that it is seemingly impossible to detach from them to recognize our true self. We connect to events and relationships that we collect as pieces of the comprehensive collection that we see as ourselves. And certainly we grasp to life itself, as it is the only existence we are conscious of, with the potentially detrimental and unintended side affect of not effectively living with our entire being.
I am not suggesting that we detach ourselves from society, unless that is your desire - a thought-emotion in and of itself that should be kept at a distance. Own the things, examine the thoughts, feel the emotions, experience the events and relationships and certainly live the life! Throughout it all, know that you are the constant underlying observer, infinitely capable and containing the universal wisdom of your true self.
To live in Aparighaha is to find independence from suffering and to discover a freedom otherwise unknown. As we examine our layers, we peel them back and reveal ourselves - to ourselves. We recognize our ability to detach from the things and the stuff and to connect to the underlying self that flows through us all. We find a deep-rooted and unending love for ourselves and, in doing so, we find contentment, ultimately leading us to true acceptance and love of one another.