Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Cultivating Santosha

My cat, Maisy, spends most of her time sitting on top of a heat vent in our bedroom. She hates our dog, who has run of most of the house, so she chooses a very solitary life for herself sequestered to the bedroom. I've gone through periods of feeling sorry for her, but mostly I'm just in awe of her ability to be content, and even happy. 

The yogis call this state of contentment demonstrated by my cat, Santosha. Without Santosha, the mind is uncontrollable, and we are pulled through the world by our desires. Without Santosha, we are unable to tap into deeper understanding, clarity or higher thought. 

2012 was a wild year for me and my family. Early in the year we opened ourselves up to dramatically changing our adoption path. It didn't work out, and now that I can look back at the timing of things I can see and understand why. In April, after 10 years of working for IBM, Fredrik's division was sold to Toshiba, and while the change has been exciting for him, it initially meant being on the road a lot. 

In mid April I got sick, very sick and very depressed. I was in bed for a few weeks, barely able to care for Kysa and once I was physically able to care for her, I was in such a deep funk I could barely function.  I was in a rough spot for a few months. Without giving away too much of Wynray's story, I feel like I can share that I got sick around Wynray's birthday, I had a cough that lasted several months and an unexplainable depression that I couldn't shake. In Chinese medicine, the lungs are the seat of grief and sadness. My cough and grief lasted months and the timing and details that parallel Wynray's story is uncanny. 

In early June, I felt what can only be called a compulsion to look for a house in Raleigh. Fredrik was having to be in Raleigh so much, and I felt it was necessary to provide a home to both our kids where Mama and Papa were home most nights.  The story of finding our house in Raleigh and selling our house in Charleston is remarkable, and you can read about it here Full Circles and Magic, and Oh Yeah, We' MOVING!!

Once we set the move in motion everything happened quickly. By the end of the summer we had sold our house in Charleston, and had moved into our new house in Raleigh. Early October brought Wynray's referral, and October and November somehow passed with the busy-ness of arrival, re-doing our homestudy and paperwork, celebrating fall things, and trying to find a routine. 

Then we got the call on Nov 30 that shot us out of a cannon to Ethiopia, and then December and all it's beautiful craziness is pretty well documented in the last few posts.

Back to Santosha. I feel like I've spent most of our time during this adoption process wishing ourselves to the next stage. If only we could mail in our dossier, complete our homestudy, get on the wait list, get a referral, get a court date, and now, finally get an Embassy date. Each step brings us a few moments of accomplishment/relief/joy, and then almost immediately there is a deep desire to move on to the next stage, and each stage the desire becomes stronger and stronger and the emotional toll greater and greater.

My teacher, Yogiraj Alan Finger, once said that you get 8 seconds to enjoy your object of desire when you obtain it. Eight seconds of bliss, that's all. And it doesn't matter if it's a new car, a piece of cake, or a life long goal, you only get 8 seconds. After that 8 seconds, it's only the memory of obtaining the object, or the memory of desiring it.  

Of course, I'm not talking about Wynray as the object of desire. I'm talking about the inner dialogue of "I just want to hold him" to "I just want him home" that puts me in dangerous territory.  I'm ready for us to just BE a family. I'm ready to BE Wynray's mom. I've been thinking a lot about that 8 second concept of unsustained satisfaction recently. I'm ready to get off of the destructive cycle of desire. I'm ready for more than 8 fleeting seconds of bliss. I'm ready to go about my days happily content.

But how could we not feel a deep desire and desperation to get our child home? How does one find contentment in the space between adoption milestones when your child is sleeping yet another night in a care center without being tucked in by mommy or daddy? How does one balance the need to Be Here Now and get your baby home ASAP! How do you go to Ethiopia, spend time in a care center with beautiful children who need mommy and daddies and not ask, "What about one more?" or "What else can I do?"

I don't know how to do it...

I know meditation/prayer helps. Ishvara Pranidhana helps- surrendering to the Divine. 
I know playing with Kysa helps. I know girlfriends, dance class, and yoga helps. I know rare quiet dinners with my husband helps....

So my 2013 resolution is to cultivate Santosha. While I sit here writing these words, I can feel myself desiring Santosha...and that in itself defeats the purpose. In 2013 I want to step off the wild adoption ride and simply delight in the smiles of my children. I want to kiss their heads a thousand times a day, hold their hands, feed them, put them to bed. I want to go to sleep at night with the relief they are both safe and warm and loved, and I want to keep my heart open to compassion and possibility...

There are a lot of "I want" statements in the above paragraph, and I feel pretty far from the state my cat appears to be in on top of the heat vent. I don't think you can move into a state of Santosha with a mile long list of "I wants." 

Just like in the last few days of my pregnancy with Kysa, I'd like to say (as a prenatal yoga teacher) that I was able to cultivate a state of grace around myself. In reality I was a hot mess. I was physically and emotionally exhausted and miserable. I tried to focus on doing fun things like pedicures, going to movies, last dinners with Fredrik, but I hated every minute.  Finally I just got real and surrendered to the misery of it. It just sucked. 

But then she was here. Life glistened with possibility, and I not only fell in love with her, but I delighted in the fat on top of her feet.  Changing her diaper was pure joy. The air I breathed was sweeter, the grass was greener and the sky bluer. My life change so dramatically in 24hrs I didn't even recognize it. 

So I think I'm just going to give myself the space and grace to want Wynray home desperately in the next few weeks. I'm going to allow myself to freak out and have anxiety because it's real. To try to impose tranquility into this moment of time would be like forcing a square peg into a round hole. I'm going to try to take care of myself and my family. Then when Wynray comes home I will delight in his radiant smile and snuggle that sweet, sweet baby boy. And then I hope to get really present, and grateful, and well.....content.

Happy New Year, Dear Ones. Wishing you all (and myself) a very happy and content 2013!!

Hari Om!


  1. Beautiful post, Allison. I think 8 seconds is about right, how long I truly enjoyed each milestone in our adoption before I was thinking about the next step and how to get it done RIGHT AWAY.

    Now that Eli's home I feel like I'm still falling into that trap in a lot of ways. My joy with each stage in our adjustment/attachment/bonding is often quickly replaced by thoughts of what's next. I need to stop and just enjoy everything because this precious time with him will never come again.

    I'm going to join you and try to cultivate some Santosha this year. Thank you for prompting me to reflect about this.

    Happy New Year!

  2. Kathleen, it was your recent post that made me start thinking about contentment, and how little I seem to have had through this process. I'm so hoping to cultivate it in 2013. So thank YOU, friend for planting the seed!

    Happy New Year to you and your sweet family!

  3. Allison you nailed it so eloquently! Thank you for sharing your heart and giving words to what my heart feels. I pray peace and joy in all seasons of your life. You are a blessing!