We recently had a retreat where we all went to a deeper level in recovery from addiction in the light of Yoga and Ayurveda. We talked about the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga, and particularly about the first two limbs, the yamas and niyamas. They are, in their essence, how we behave in the world and how we treat ourselves. One of the niyamas is samtosha, most often defined as contentment. I like to think of it in terms of acceptance and connection that come with the surrender of Step 3: Made a decision (acceptance) to turn our will and life over to the care of God (willingness to let our higher power run the show instead of the limiting ego, or ahamkara) as we understand God.
“I thought I had turned over my will and life to the care of my higher power. My relationship with others felt easier and I was more at peace. I was applying the teachings of 'accept and forgive' and 'make amends and move on' to my relations with others. However, I was frustrated because though I thought I had turned my will and my life over, I was still having old behaviors and self-deprecating thoughts. I thought there would be more freedom than that. During the retreat, I realized that I had not turned over my relationship with myself. I did not fully turn my life over and as a result I was holding myself hostage with self-judgment and old behaviors. The real surprise to me was how many places this applied in my life – how often I don't accept or forgive myself for mistakes, and the total lack of awareness that I can make an amend to myself in any given moment and move on. I immediately felt a sense of relief. Now I feel hopeful and encouraged that there are more magnificent changes ahead for me. I can move forward including all aspects of my life in my Step 3."
The third step provides freedom. It is a step along the broad highway that the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous speaks of. However, many people feel like a victim for having to take Step 3 because they think of it as submission. In reality, surrender to that power greater than ourselves brings empowerment and ease. And as Kelsey realized, total surrender means our relating to ourselves as well.
Try these three actions to keep you in the third step:
1. A morning gratitude list of at least five things you are grateful for, and add to it through the day.
2. A healing mantra – the Mahamritunjaya.
3. The third step prayer: God, I offer myself to Thee — to build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
The third step is in the essence of the teachings of Yoga. The energetic shift of turning our will and life over reduces ego and takes us toward the union of body, mind and spirit. Think of it as taking your claws out of life and letting it flow. In Yoga this is practicing shraddha, our true faith, trusting our higher power and the course of life. With this spiritual basis we can remember we are never given anything we can’t handle and are always given everything we need.
You are never alone and samtosha is available to you all the time. The spiritual path may not always feel the easiest, but it is rich and full.