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Complaining versus Contentment posted 6 September 2018

In class the other day I started musing upon complaint.  In asana I often find myself thinking in the way of complaint: the pose is too long; the language is not right; the sequence is not right; the teacher should be dealing with this not that, and so on. 

When I am in complaint I am not content.  Complaint is an expression of discontent.  Complaining in my head does not change anything either.  It just creates a state of disconnection from what I am doing that denies me fulfilment.

Action is a powerful response to sensations or ideas of complaint.  Not actions to vent the complaint but actions to shift from complaint into accountability and responsibility.  For example, if I perceive a pose is being held for too long I have choices:  I can choose to come out of the pose.  This action will relieve any strain upon my muscles or joints or allow me to restore my energy and will make me responsible for my well-being rather than in a process of complaint and blame towards the teacher.

I could also choose to recommit to the pose – to refresh my muscular engagement, to relax tension from my body, to renew my ujjayi breath, to re-focus my dristhi gaze, and , in short, to be responsible for my pose and my experience in the pose and to treat a long hold as a chance to grow.

When I choose action over complaint I feel much better in myself.  I feel responsible for myself and my interaction with my circumstances.  Accountability and responsibility feel truer to me than blame and malcontent.

It is like when elections come around.  There are some who complain about “the government” but do not vote.  Whether your vote is for a winning candidate or party or not, exercising your right to vote means that you have done what you can.

If I complain and no one is there to hear me complain, is there anything to complain about?  After I arrived home from our recent trip to Canada but Margo was still away in Canada recently, I found I was not complaining about things.  There was no one to complain to so I stopped complaining.  The day she returned I found myself complaining about trifles to Margo.

It made me realise how complaint was just an unconscious habit.  It reinforced for me the importance of being in action and stepping away from complaint.

The yogic principle of samtosha (I sometimes see it written as santosha) which is the second of the five niyamas from Patanjali’s Sutras means acceptance or contentment.  The sage did not recommend whining and grumbling and complaining.  Instead, a state of contentment with one’s circumstances and with events was urged as a means of living.

In the class I was teaching when the notion of complaint came to me, I thought of Nelson Mandela.  Having been imprisoned for over a quarter of a century by an apartheid regime he may have harboured grievances and nursed a state of complaint.  However, upon his release he disavowed complaint but took action. 

He stood for election and became President of the Republic of South Africa.  With respect to the injustices done during the apartheid era, rather than seeking to blame and find and punish the wrongdoers, he instituted the truth and Reconciliation hearings.  This action was to clear the air, to bring injustice into public conversation, to allow those whose conscience was troubled to make their apologies and to create a platform for a united future.

Contentment and acceptance do not mean resignation to unsatisfactory circumstances.  They contemplate, as Gandhi so well put it, be the change you want to see.  If there is injustice, rather than griping and complaining, stand up and act to create the world you wish to exist.

A ten breath holding of Warrior 2 pose may be tiring.  You may be tempted to complain to yourself that the teacher is wrong, the practice is wrong and the studio is wrong.  You may be drawn into complaint that your body is weak and no good.  But these (incorrect) complaints alter nothing.

Come to a state of contentment/acceptance with what is: this is a long hold of Warrior 2.  Be in action with respect to those circumstances: rest your hands at your hips if your shoulders won’t support the uplift of your arms.  Take downward facing dog or child’s pose if you need to rest.  Firm up, focus upon the necessary contractions of the pose and breathe long and powerful to rise to the challenge of your circumstances.

Recognise complaint when it intrudes upon your thoughts.  See the futility and ultimately unsatisfactory state of being in complaint.  Choose action that will give you the power of contentment in the moment or power by changing your inner experience of your situation.  Or accept your situation and choose the power of action to change your circumstances. 

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