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  • Julie Lifton

Reflecting on Zoom: Santosha and Dayenu

Updated: May 25, 2020


דַּיֵּנו / संतोष

In last week’s class I drew a connection between the Hebrew word Dayenu, and the Sanskrit word Santosha.

The Hebrew word Dayenu is a contraction of two words dai,which translates as “enough” and lanu “for us.”

When the two words are joined the “l” of lanu is dropped and it becomes Dayenu. It’s most often heard in the context of Passover, the holiday commemorating the liberation of the Jewish people from Egypt. The people are acknowledging that their needs were provided for. Dayenu is inherently plural. “If we had just been given passage out of Egypt, that would have been enough for us! If we had just been given bread, that would have been enough for us!” And on like that. Every intervention was yet another gift – to “us”.

So why Dayenu now? Because even though our Yoga community has been scattered and physically distanced because of Covid-19 we have this amazing gift of technology through Zoom. We can sustain our practice and continue on our yoga journey together. In fact, our community has already increased, as we have been joined by yogis in Indiana, Georgia, Virginia, California, Arizona, Oregon, Illinois, and even Israel! How beautiful is that?!? That’s a powerfully good silver lining!

Santosha in Sanskrit is often translated as “contentment”. It is one of the 5 Niyamas, the second limb of the Eight Limbs of Yoga as described in The Yoga Sutras, compiled by Patanjali over 2,000 years ago.** We have needed to learn its lessons for as long as we’ve stood on two feet.

It’s different than “happiness” which is a transitory state, whereas contentment is a deep accepting of what is. Here is a quote by Donna Farhi from her wonderful book, Yoga: Mind, Body, Spirit:

"Santosha, or the practice of content-ment, is the ability to feel satisfied within the container of one's immediate experience. Contentment shouldn't be confused with happiness, for we can be in difficult, even painful circumstances and still find some semblance of contentment if we are able to see things as they are without the conflictual pull of our expectations. Contentment also should not be confused with complacency, in which we allow ourselves to stagnate in our growth. Rather it is a sign that we are at peace with whatever stage of growth we are in and the circumstances we find ourselves in. This doesn't mean that we accept or tolerate unhealthy relationships or working conditions. But it may mean that we practice patience and attempt to live as best we can within our situation until we are able to better our conditions."

Another way to think of it is to say that what is is enough for me, right now. That even if I can’t go to a yoga studio and have eyes on me, and I have to be responsible for my own alignment to stay safe, I can still do yoga through Zoom and have a deep and meaningful class. It is also enough for me, as your teacher, that even if I can’t have a three-dimensional view of your postures, I can still feel the beautiful energy of your virtual presence and I can keep teaching what I need to learn!

Both of these words suggest looking at the world not through a lens of “lack” but rather, through honoring our abundance, even if limited.

Dayenu is “enough for us”; Santosha is “enough for me”. Two age-old traditions instructing us to be in the NOW, to notice what IS and to sit with “enough”.

** I will be going deeper into the 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas in a later blog post!

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