Gratitude Without Spiritual Bypassing
According to the 8 Limb Path outlined in the Yoga Sutras, practicing gratitude is a key ingredient to health and happiness. The Sanskrit word for this attitude of contentment is: santosha.
Santosha is a lens. It’s a way of looking at your experiences through the filter of gratitude. When we embody santosha, we’re choosing to end the war with reality.
Much of our experiences are beyond our control. Rather than expend energy resisting and expressing frustration, the mark of a yoga practice is the ability to embrace your experience as it is.
Yoga is not, however, about spiritual bypassing.
What Is Spiritual Bypassing?
Spiritual bypassing is when you use spiritual practices or ideology to ignore or deny pain or hardship. Rather than address valid struggles, a spiritual bypasser insists on oversimplified solutions or refuses to acknowledge the challenge altogether.
In communities focused on personal development, I’ve noticed a tendency to glaze over the real, challenging and sometimes dark aspects of life. This often comes in the form of trite phrases like “everything happens for a reason” or my (least) favorite catchy saying “good vibes only.”
News flash, if you’re a human being, you will experience the shadow side of life. The more you run from it, the more devastating it will be when it takes you out.
When we talk about santosha, we are not talking about ignoring the hard stuff.
Yes and Yes
One of the promises of a consistent yoga practice is the ability to hold two opposing ideas together, comfortably.
In time, it’s possible for the yogi to simultaneously acknowledge heartache and abundance. You can admit your feelings of disappointment, overwhelm, or fear and also choose to focus your attention on where you have power to influence your experience.
When you focus on the good, the beautiful and the gifts that challenges bring, those things magnify.
On the other hand, when you focus on things that are beyond your control, you expend an exorbitant amount of energy working tirelessly against yourself.
Operating from santosha means you recognize that your experiences are neither good nor bad, but rather opportunities. More often than not, the dark times in life are the greatest opportunities for growth, new perspective, and healing.
Freedom Is Your Reward
The beauty of santosha, this choice to soften into life exactly as it unfolds, is that you can experience a freedom and a peace that passes all understanding.
It wasn’t until I understood that I had the choice to change the way I frame the events of my life that I realized how much power I have to create joy in all circumstances! This is the mindset that allows me to move through days filled with obstacles in a way where I feel the abundance of life.
I wholeheartedly agree with the quote from Oprah Winfrey that says gratitude turns what we have into enough.
Don’t BS Yourself
I recognize that I’m speaking from a place of privilege. There are tragedies and darkness and I’ve never experienced. This isn’t intended to undermine the reality of life and how dismal it can be. What it is is an experience of shifting the way I move through the world from things happening to me to things happening for me. I invite you to do the same!
Let me be clear: I don’t believe that it is necessary to be grateful for difficulty directly. I do however believe that there is always a gift to unveil, however deeply buried, from even the most difficult circumstances.
Pain, sorrow, anger, the full range of human experiences need to be given space and to be validated. If you’re currently walking through the mud, I hear you and I see you. You’re allowed to be where you are and feel what you feel.
At the same time, if you’re reading this you woke up this morning and you breathed in air. That alone is a gift! If there’s no other reason to feel grateful today, you have your breath you have life. How will you choose to use it?